The effects of the global climate crisis has become local

Published 11:28 am Friday, July 7, 2023

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When we talk about the global climate crisis, many make light of it. But, this past week, there were reports that the earth recorded its hottest day ever on Tuesday. But, you say it’s summer and July is always hot. But, not everywhere.
This July 4 was Earth’s hottest day since records began, scientists say. As a result, some scientists believe the heat is due to a dangerous combination of climate change causing global temperatures to soar, the return of the El Nino pattern, and the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
In the United States, 57 million people were exposed to dangerous heat on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post’s extreme heat tracker. At the same time, China was gripped by a sizzling heat wave, the Antarctic is hotter than usual during its winter, and temperatures in the north of Africa reached 122F, Reuters reported.
The climate crisis is global. Also, this summer meteorologists report that the haze we have seen in Northeast Tennessee has been smoke from wildfires in Canada giving much of the nation some bad air quality. Here, in Northeast Tennessee we were luckier than many cities in the Northeast.
However, we won’t always be so lucky. As humans struggle to reduce, much less eliminate, the use of fossil fuels, every additional bit of carbon pollution put into the atmosphere makes it more likely life in our neck of the woods will be made worse – by events both near and far.
The fires in eastern Canada are just the latest example. Such fires have been increasing in frequency across the U.S. and Canada in recent years as a result of rising temperatures caused by fossil fuel emissions.
Those fires have reversed a lot of the gains made in improving air pollution in the last few decades. The smoke they produce is taken by the jet stream to other states, and even other countries, far from the fire itself, making the air unhealthy for days at a time.
When the West Coast of the U.S. was engulfed in wildfires three years ago, for instance, Northeast Tennessee was hit with hazy skies and polluted air – and there was nothing we could do about it.
But this year’s are particularly troubling. Western Canada, like the western U.S., because of its vegetation and climate, have always been susceptible to fire.
However, in recent years, wildfires in the east have been on the rise. Climate change is producing winters with less snow, leaving the ground and vegetation more dry through the spring and summer. The higher than average temperatures we are now experiencing then dry them out even more, creating a fire hazard in areas where there wasn’t one before.
It’s been a few years since Northeast Tennessee has had a snowy winter. Winter temperatures have been on the warm side. Add to that, our towns and cities are practically covered with asphalt, which draw heat.
The wildfire that hit Nova Scotia this year was its largest in history. More than 16,000 people had to leave their homes, and children, the elderly, and those with lung conditions struggled with the air quality.
And this all happened in a year that forecasters said initially only had an average risk for wildfires.
Consider that a warning. While this part of North America will never have the wildfire risk of the wide-open West, the changing climate means the risk will get worse – and no one can tell us how bad that could be.
Just as in Canada, wildfires are becoming more frequent in Northeast Tennessee, and for the same reasons. There’s less snow, so it’s easier for the fuel in the woods to dry out. Times of high temperature and low humidity bring drought. We’re getting more rain, but it increasingly comes in big storms that don’t soak vegetation so well.
The record-setting wildfire season in Canada was a surprise, even to those who know the climate crisis is changing our environment, just as the heat wave across the Pacific northwest astounded scientists with its severity.
Anyone who tells you climate change is not our problem, or not a problem at all, cannot be taken seriously.

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