Brief #40—Environment

Policy Summary
Summer in the northern hemisphere was brutal this year, and the indian summer continues to be so. Deadly heat waves struck Quebec, Sacramento and Tokyo between June to August of this year, all of which combined killed nearly 80 people and hospitalized thousands. More still, heat waves of unprecedented proportion were seen nearly globally. Climate experts say it is indisputable that the uptick in summer temperatures correlate with climate change, as temperatures this high haven’t been seen globally since the early 20th century, and before that the early 18th. And the fires that raged in Northern California this summer, which destroyed over half a million acres of land, is just another consequence of amped-up heat, too. The effects also devastate many disenfranchised communities in the United States, specifically, as elderly people–homeless and housed–struggle to combat elevated temperatures. Yet, the heat increase is just beginning, research suggests. A study released in Nature Communications anticipates that the planet will be at its “peak warm” over the next four years (at least), based on new evidence collected.

It seems that stopping the escalating rise in heat is a nearly impossible task at this point, so the real analysis can be found in how societies will mitigate the change. Already, the effects are wide-sweeping. Schools in the Northeastern United States have started having “heat days,” an alternative to “snow days” in a climate-changed world. Many school districts throughout the Northeast are sad to have “inadequate cooling” or no air conditioning whatsoever, prompting classroom temperatures to be as high as 100 degrees. The unmanageable heat has made for impossible working conditions for both teachers and students, which has led to school closures. This, too, gives rise to the greater issue that millions of people worldwide still need air conditioning, and other cooling products, but that the use of these very tools can (and probably will) create huge problems for the planet. Because these products rely on electricity to be generated, and that energy often comes from fossil fuel, there is significant concern that the short term use of commodities like, air conditioning, will only perpetuate climate-addled issues further.

Still, civilians are imagining, and working hard to envision a less burdened future. Some are envisioning a “heat-proof city” which would be filled with vertical gardens, reflective roofs, water (misters) and architecture that utilizes dynamic shades. This sort of visionary thinking is also what has generated so much social justice activism. Last week, San Francisco hosted a Global Climate Action Summit, to raise awareness and generate change with regard to how climate change is affecting communities worldwide. And within that same week, tens of thousands of people in over 90 countries protested over the weekend, demanding an equitable transition to 100% clean energy. All movements were heavily focused in advocating for racial and economic justice. Nonetheless, Maeve Boeman of elucidated that, “We are up against huge obstacles and Donald Trump is a massive one. This is about being clear what we are asking for when the opportunity presents itself.”

Engagement Resources

  • Sustainable Energy for All: A nonprofit launched by a former United Nations secretary general in 2011, which aims to provide information about global access to energy.
  • A global grassroots organization that is trying to hold government leaders accountable for climate change.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact:

Photo by Andrew Stutesman

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