Opinion: Scorching summers are the future


Will our children grow up afraid of summer?

This week I watched an international newscast and saw what looked like most of the planet – the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia – painted bright orange and bright red, like the burning bush. Fahrenheit temperatures in triple-digit numbers seemed to be blazing all over the world map.

Heat records have exploded around the world. This very weekend, crops are burning, roads are warping and seas are rising, while lakes and reservoirs are receding or even disappearing. Ice caps are melting as the heat increases, and wildfires are lighting up the forests.

People are dying in this oppressive heat. Lives of all kinds are threatened, in cities, fields, seas, deserts, jungles and tundra. Wildlife, farm animals, insects and human beings are in distress.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization says there will be more deadly heat in our future due to climate change caused by our species on this planet. Even with advances in wind, solar and other alternative energy sources, and international promises and agreements, the world still derives around 80% of its energy from fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, which release the carbon dioxide that has warmed the climate to the current temperatures of this scorching summer.

WMO chief Petteri Taalas said this week: “In the future, these kinds of heat waves will become normal.”

The most alarming word in his predictions might be: “normal.”

I am part of a generation that saw summer as a sunny time for children. I think of the long carefree days spent outdoors, playing games or just hanging out. John Updike wrote in his poem “June”:

The sun is rich

And willingly pays

In golden hours,

silver days,

And long green weeks

It never ends.

School is over. Time

It’s up to us to spend.

There is Little League,

Hopscotch, the stream,

And, after supper,

Hide and seek.

The light that lasts

It’s like a dream…

But now that “bright light,” Updike was talking about, might look ominous in a summer like this.

In scorching weeks like the ones we see this year, and perhaps for years to come, you wonder if our failures to care for the planet given to us will cause our children to look forward to summer or fear another hot season.

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