The heat is on: Climate change consequences
One of the pleasant experiences people have had in rural and undeveloped areas is sleeping out in the open during hot seasons. As the sun fades behind the mountains in the west, a gentle breeze would drift by, sweeping away the remaining heat of the day while providing a pleasant moment of relief for everyone.
Now this experience has become mere nostalgia for many in different parts of the world. Night does not have its old grace. It does not provide the natural cooling relief it once did in much of the world. The heat stalks us all through the night. We have no other choice but to run to our shelters and turn on our cooling systems, or risk having our sleep ruined by stifling heat.
This is a very trivial but pleasing experience that we, as humans, have snatched away from ourselves by releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, with more to come.
Our activities have destroyed the climate, as it has turned warmer and lost the natural balance that provided an appropriate environment for the existence and evolution of life for millions of years. During this summer, countries across the globe have reported heat waves and new temperature records. The latest, as of Aug 27, was in the People’s Republic of China.
Chinese meteorological officials announced that the average temperature reached 22 C, the highest ever recorded since 1961. Mr. Zhang Zuqiang, director of the emergency relief and public service department of the China Meteorological Administration, said in a news conference that the average temperature recorded during June to August showed a degree higher comparison to previous years.
"The higher summer temperatures lasted longer and covered a wider area combined with extreme weather,” he added.
This summer, heat waves hit North America, Europe and the Middle East, resulting in many deaths across different countries. For instance, in July, Quebec, Canada reported 19 deaths related to scorching heat, despite having better living conditions and cutting-edge technologies to fight back.
The media have released similar reports about Africa as well as the Middle East. On July 5, a weather station at Ouargla in Algeria’s Sahara Desert reported a maximum temperature of 51.3 C, the highest temperature reliably recorded in Africa.
Likewise, in the Middle East, a village called Quriyat, located on Oman’s northeast coast, experienced a new heat record last month. The village temperature remained above 42.6 C for 51 straight hours, making it the highest nightly low temperature ever observed on the Earth’s surface.
Such weather anomalies are consequential. Many countries have already felt the stab right deep down to their lungs. They are wrangling with low levels of rain and snow and, as a result, chronic droughts. This issue, along with economic consequences, has brought about a chain of social, political and humanitarian challenges.
As of now, climate change migration has begun. Heat has evaporated surface water and, in parts of the world, groundwater can no longer be tapped and consumed. There is no water left for farmers to irrigate their corps and even drink, especially in Southeast Asia. They have no choice other than packing and setting out in search of water and food in other parts of the world. If the situation continues like this, which it certainly will, the world will face a refugee problem far greater than that of war refugees in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, despite such anomalies, witnesses and having strong scientific reasons, some politicians still believe global warming is a myth -- one which, according to them, does not require any urgent action.
Consider, for instance, the Paris conference. A groundbreaking agreement was signed in 2015 to mitigate climate change, under huge pressure from public opinion, the lobbyists of countries most affected by climate change and environmental activists. Under the agreement, every member country is obliged to limit the level of greenhouse gas emissions and finally reduce it to zero. But after the election of Donald Trump as the US president in 2017, he withdrew from the agreement, arguing it undermines the country’s economic growth and puts it under permanent disadvantages.
However, the US will abide by the four-year exit process according to article 28 of the Paris Agreement, but the mere withdrawal from such an agreement on the account of keeping economic supremacy in the world is utterly irrational. In withdrawing, the US, which has the second-largest share in carbon dioxide emissions after China, can hold back the objectives set under the agreement.
However, the good news is that China and other members of the agreement have unanimously stood behind their promises.
Though maintaining the decadeslong economic growth rate is a top priority, Beijing clearly has shown its determination to combat climate change. It has a new approach toward the nation’s well-being, maintaining the economic growth pace through clean and renewable energy.
Thus, China has invested tremendously in clean energy such as wind and solar during recent years. It has huge capacity and can restructure the engine of the current global economy, which is fueled by polluting energies such as coal, oil and gas. I am sure that if China succeeds in these efforts—which is highly possible--other countries, including the US, will overhaul their economic policies and follow the country’s lead.
The author was a columnist for the Daily Outlook Newspaper from 2008 to 2016, and is currently studying for a master’s degree in Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.