Thursday, July 13, 2023

Quote of the Day (Simon Kuper, on Climate Change’s Impact on European Summers)

“Since the heatwaves of 2019, summer has morphed from something to crave into something to fear. Europe, which is heating twice as fast as the global average, had its hottest ever summer in 2022, breaking the record set in 2021 — all of which was before the world re-entered the hotter El Niño climate cycle. No beach is fun at 40C with wildfires on the horizon.”—Journalist Simon Kuper, “How Will Climate Change Affect the Holiday Map?” The Financial Times, July 1-2, 2023

Will this go down as the summer when Planet Earth finally awakens to the threat of climate change, when voters finally demand that politicians stop denying its existence and start spelling out what they’ll do about it?

If only!

Even so, it is remarkable the extent to which there are few places on this planet—and, more to the point, few places in the United States—that are not affected by the rising heat and humidity. Statistics don’t persuade people of much, but maybe TV footage of relatives—or, God forbid, direct experience with the consequences of a climate in the midst of a perfect storm of factors—might convince some.

At some point, I’d like to write an analysis that, jigsaw-like, puts all the pieces of together from different parts of the globe to depict what’s happening. But Simon Kuper’s recent column that I quoted from above illuminates, in concise form, what is happening in Europe.

I didn’t know until I read him, for instance, that a particularly popular European pastime—sunbathing on the French Riviera—was invented 100 years ago this summer by Gerald and Sara Murphy, the models for the expatriate couple at the heart of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel Tender Is the Night.

Nor, until I read Kuper, had I thought of how unbearable temperatures could alter European tourism patterns—and have a direct (and more often than not, unhappy) effect on this element of the continent’s economy.

The image accompanying this post is based on a 2022 European Investment Bank survey, showing an even wider implication of climate change: that more than a quarter of Europeans believe they may need to move to another region because of the phenomenon.

From my childhood, I distinctly recall a margarine commercial with the tagline, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” But for at least the past couple of decades, in our refusal to face up to climate change, Americans have been the fools, not the other way around. Maybe now, as we survey the damage, we can only hope that clown time is over.

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