Winter here in North America coincides with summer in Australia, and it’s a hot one. It’s so hot, in fact, that the Aussis were faced with a dilemma. An eminent heat wave had them predicting it’s going to hit 122ºF (50ºC) and above. As far as the color maps that meteorologists use to show local temperatures, this sort of heat is literally off the scale.
What’s Australia’s official response? Well, if you guessed that they’ve made emergency revisions to energy policies, you’re dead wrong. Since they’re expecting heat levels that are off the scale, they’ve calmly implemented a change to deal with this crisis: They’ve changed the scale.
Now when places in Australia get beyond red hot and charcoal black there’s a blazing purple and a burning pink that will show up on weather maps instead. But hey, maps shmaps, right? Since these ultra-extreme temperatures are expected in Australia’s dry interior, some people might not be concerned.
Yet in Sydney, the most populous city in Australia, temperatures reached 108ºF (42ºC) this Monday. As noted by Wired, the folks at Apple say that’s too hot to safely use an iPhone, and it’s almost enough to damage such an instrument when not in use. The iPad and iPod devices are affected by these temperatures too, and we can assume Apple products aren’t the only gadgets we have to worry about. As 350.org founder Bill McKibben quipped via Twitter, “OMG, Aust. currently too hot to use an Ipad, Iphone. Finally a reason to act!”
Even more visible effects of this searing “dome of heat” down under are many. Players at the 2013 Australian Open in Melbourne, for example, have been suffering heat stroke. Between matches, the players are been seeking out air conditioned tents and ice baths so so their brains and bodies don’t shut down. Tennis pros have that luxury, but most other people who perform strenuous outdoor activity for a living (construction workers and agricultural workers, for example) do not.
Extreme temperatures are a factor in huge big wildfires across Australia that show prominently in the Earth at Night maps made by NASA. Wildfires are part of the natural order of things in Australia, but these rampant conflagrations are something else. Tens of thousands of cattle and sheep have been killed in the fires, and almost a hundred people are missing after a blaze in Tasmania destroyed their homes last week. According to New York Times:
“Four months of record-breaking temperatures stretching back to September 2012 have produced what the government says are ‘catastrophic’ fire conditions along the eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, where the majority of Australians live…The intensity of the bushfires and the unrelenting heat prompted some climate scientists to decry what they see as public indifference to man-made climate change, which is widely seen as leading to more frequent extreme weather.”
David Jones, manager of climate monitoring prediction at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, remarked that “one might say this is the largest heat event in the country’s recorded history.” He also noted, “this event is turning out to be hotter, more spatially expansive and the duration is quite remarkable…and that suggests climate change.”
Climate change is, of course, a global phenomenon and it’s foolish to think the effects of it won’t be increasingly visible in North America as well. Sandy, the superstorm that destroyed lives not only islands in the Caribbean but also on New York’s Long Island, was likely an effect of it. The same thing can be said of droughts that diminished food production in parts of the United States this year.
The National Climatic Data Center has officially deemed 2012 as the warmest year on record in the continuous United States. 55.3ºF (12.94ºC), the average temperature for the year just ended, is 3.2ºF above the 20th century average and one full degree Fahrenheit above the average for 1998, previous holder of the record. Wildfires burned 9.2 million acres of the United States in 2012. What do you think the next decade years will be like? How about the next century?
If these dramatic changes in Earth’s climate were being caused by a heat ray pointed at our planet by evil aliens from outer space, I think we’d agree that dealing with the issue of climate change must be the top priority of the human species.
But scientific consensus agrees that “climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities.” It’s happening because of our reliance on fossil fuel combustion, our manufacturing processes, our agricultural methods and our deforestation efforts. In short, cataclysmic climate change is caused by things that make rich people richer, and rich people control the world.