Introduce the topic of climate change at a party, and tempers can quickly flare. One person thinks the earth is simply going through another cyclic climate change that has nothing to do with how humans have used and abused resources. Others argue that climate change with higher temperatures is real but good for the planet. They say that, statistically speaking, we’ll see fewer winter deaths. Energy costs to heat buildings, including homes, will be lower. Agricultural yields will increase. Fewer droughts will occur, and biodiversity will be greater. Other pluses are that frozen regions of the earth might be available for food production, and untapped oil and gas reserves could become available.
I am not convinced that global warming is good for the planet. I think the United Nations Environment Programme is correct to call it a climate emergency. The United Nations (UN) states that global warming does not bode well for humanity. Its official position is that it can “cause a rise in sea level, leading to the loss of coastal land, a change in precipitation patterns, increased risks of droughts and floods, and threats to biodiversity.”
Even given the dire projections of the impacts and deaths that will result from global warming, few scientists predict the extinction of the human race. That is, of course, a bright spot. But should food and water become scarce, a societal breakdown could occur. At that point, millions, if not billions, of lives would be lost.
Impact of Global Warming on Tourism
Some of the effects of climate change aren’t necessarily obvious. For instance, some researchers claim, “Climate change would shift tourism patterns towards higher altitudes and latitudes. Tourism may double in colder countries and fall by 20 percent in warmer countries. . . . For some countries, international tourism may treble whereas for others it may be cut in half.”
But redirected tourists may be the least of our problems.
Although some will argue to the contrary, extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense due to human-induced climate change. That means loss of life, destruction of buildings and infrastructure, fires, flooding, and crop disruptions.
Recently, Reuters reported that even Arizona’s saguaro cacti, attuned to heat and drought, are dying from the soaring temperatures and lack of moisture. Newsweek reported the slowing of the large system of ocean currents that circulate water in the Atlantic may result in their collapse as early as 2025. The flow of the ocean currents is essential. The collapse would trigger “multiple tipping points.”
From Macro to Micro
While scientists and government officials work on solving the macro issues and responding to emergencies, such as massive fires, floods, crop failures, tornados, and hurricanes, individuals are adapting to the higher temperatures as best they can.
That goes for me too. I live in Europe, which is the fastest-warming continent according to a joint report by the World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Within Europe, I live in the South of France near the Mediterranean Sea. Summers here were already hotter than I was comfortable with; now they are even hotter.
Air-conditioning and fans strategically placed throughout my home keep me comfortable, but I don’t go out in the daytime. In that sense, it feels a bit like COVID days. Almost no one goes out in the heat of the day. Nightlife replaces daytime activities. One outdoor concert I was invited to began at 9:30 p.m., at which time the audience would be more comfortable. I declined because I’d never last to the end (one in the morning).
Because I spend most of my time working on solitary projects (writing, sewing, or cooking), I can quickly fill the daylight hours without my usual excursions to the grocery store, fabric store, or general store. But I’m beginning to miss the freedom of being able to take a walk during the daytime. There will be no tennis until the fall since the courts I play on are outdoors, and that means I miss seeing my tennis friends.
I’m sharing my perspective, though not because I’m seeking sympathy. Any sympathy should be reserved for those who must work outdoors (such as construction workers, landscapers, and farm laborers) and those who live outdoors, such as people experiencing homelessness.
By sharing my story, I’m only trying to demonstrate how global warming is already changing humans' lives in big and small ways.
Back in California
Two days ago, I received an email from a friend who lives in Northern California near my former home. She wrote that the temperature had reached 108°F (42°C) for over a week. That’s unheard of.
When I lived in Northern California, my husband and I used our air-conditioning system less than a week each year. Now air-conditioning is used daily for those lucky enough to have it and who can afford to pay for the electricity.
Hope Springs Eternal
When I see the projections for a continuing increase in the global temperature, how little progress has been made on addressing the crisis, and how little time is left before the damage is irreversible (a little over a decade, according to the UN), I get discouraged. It seems as if we are arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, hoping a new arrangement will keep the ship from sinking.
But I’m hopeful. Like Cicero said, “There is hope as long as there is life.” I cling to my faith in the ingenuity of the human species. Geniuses scattered around the globe will, I hope, come up with solutions for the increasingly urgent environmental crisis. I hope we don’t lose too many people before the answers can be implemented. Or that the solutions don’t arrive after it’s too late to reverse the damage.
(Cover photo by Bernard Hermant)