All-time temperature records tumble again as heatwave sears Europe
July 25, 2019 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium have recorded all-time national temperature highs for the second day running and Paris has had its hottest day ever as the second dangerous heatwave of the summer sears western Europe. The extreme temperatures follow a similar heatwave last month that made it the hottest June on record. Scientists say the climate crisis is making summer heatwaves five times more likely and significantly more intense.

The heat wave, caused by a massive area of high pressure extending into the upper atmosphere, also known as a heat dome, is set to envelop Scandinavia in the next two days, before making a run at the Arctic. This could dramatically speed up the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and enhance the loss of already record-low sea ice.
posted by roolya_boolya (94 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
we are doomed
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 9:55 AM on July 25 [9 favorites]


#notallEurope

(it's still unseasonably balmy here in Portugal, mid-20s, not at all usual for July.)
posted by chavenet at 9:57 AM on July 25


Not only was it the hottest ever recorded in Paris, but it broke the previous record by at least four Fahrenheit degrees (2.2 Celsius degrees). That's a huge margin for an all-time temperature record in a location with many years of record.
posted by jkent at 9:57 AM on July 25 [9 favorites]


it's bad and I don't like it but also I feel betrayed by certain snowy promises made by early 2000s disaster films.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:58 AM on July 25 [8 favorites]


I get the feeling there is some climate change related information somewhere that predicts this and more dire scenarios rapidly coming our way that the general population has been intentionally kept unaware of.
posted by nikaspark at 10:01 AM on July 25 [9 favorites]


There was an editorial in Nature maaaany years ago that basically set out, "don't ever be hopeless in reporting climate research or the political will dies".

So... yeah.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:05 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]


Stay safe, folks. Try to stay as cool as you can and check up on older neighbors.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:05 AM on July 25


Yeah, it hit 38c (100F) here in Amsterdam today.

I know people will chime in with "Well, here in Texas/Florida/NYC etc." but the problem is that this is happening where buildings were not built for this heat. People live in tall buildings meant to trap heat for the icy winters. Also nobody has A/C.

Bridges expand so much they cannot open to let boats through and city workers have been constantly spraying down the largest bridges. So, again, infrastructure problems. Trains may not be able to run because, again rails buckle under the heat (To answer: Why don't they buckle in Spain etc, it is again because the rails in the UK for example were not designed initially to accomodate this expansion)

I'm actually glad A/C is uncommon here and there is little motor traffic as that makes the outside environment merely hellish instead of nearly fatal. We were able to go sit at a nearby fountain this afternoon after hanging wet towels outside the windows of our flat.
posted by vacapinta at 10:21 AM on July 25 [47 favorites]



I get the feeling there is some climate change related information somewhere that predicts this and more dire scenarios rapidly coming our way that the general population has been intentionally kept unaware of.


15 years ago when I talked to a good friend who does climate research, she said (well, besides "we're fucked") that what concerned her was warming getting bad enough that the permafrost started melting & releasing huge amounts of methane, which was a more powerful heat-trapping gas, & that it could quickly create a feedback loop that spiraled global warming out of control.

Well, that has started happening, so it's not like no one knew, or no one warned anybody, just that governments chose to not act and here we are.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:23 AM on July 25 [47 favorites]


Democratically-elected governments chose not to act because there was usually no electoral penalty for inaction but if they pledged to raise taxes for environmental reasons or did anything to curtail profitable but environmentally-harmful industries they'd get hammered at the ballot box. Here in Canada, a lot of people are "worried" about the environment but half of the country would refuse to spend $100/year in taxes to prevent climate change.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:36 AM on July 25 [18 favorites]


Yeah, we really haven't been trying to keep it a secret. It's been published in the literature. We talk about it in the press. Mostly, then we get stalked and harassed for doing so.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:37 AM on July 25 [18 favorites]


I am going to echo The Card Cheat re: Canadian perspective

We had this blip of a slightly more responsive and reasonable provincial gov't in Alberta (New Democratic Party, ostensibly left of centre, but in Alberta that means "not a complete fucking sell-out to Big Oil") and after a single term we returned to the Good Ol Boys (United Conservative Party).

The proposed provincial Carbon Tax? To be scrapped immediately, and they are lawyering up with other conservative provinces to challenge the Federal Carbon Tax. Green energy initiatives? To be scrapped. Canadians ought to be ashamed at the apathy and lack of will.. it really starts with Joe and Jane Average, we cannot blame anyone else. I always assumed most Western European electorates to be somewhat more engaged and informed? Will this heat wave produce a greater sense of urgency in voters to move forward with more sustained and radical efforts to address climate crisis?
posted by elkevelvet at 10:48 AM on July 25 [7 favorites]


I get the feeling there is some climate change related information somewhere that predicts this and more dire scenarios rapidly coming our way that the general population has been intentionally kept unaware of.

There is plenty of reporting on dire portents even outside the scholarly literature, but we've plainly made a collective decision to continue to live a late capitalist lifestyle right up to the very moment where it becomes impossible to do so.

It's insanity-inducing, especially as a parent, to look around at our 2019 reality and realize how fragile it is, and how very quickly it is going to begin to buckle and collapse. The only response I've been able to come up with is to try to enjoy basic things - like not having to go hungry so that my kids can eat - that are very soon going to seem like impossible luxuries.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:51 AM on July 25 [15 favorites]


I mean it's not really a collective decision when it's been made for us by the tiny fractional percentage of venal awful people with the money and the power. Short of hunting the CEOs whose companies are the most responsible through the streets like the most dangerous game, which as always I fully support, it's not like individual choices are going to make a difference outside of the individual choices made when voting, and even that's a frustrating mess lately.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:58 AM on July 25 [40 favorites]


Here we are, at the intersection of popular democracy and prisoner's dilemma, and it sure feels like we aren't going to survive.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:59 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


How much of our collective apathy to the crisis is due to the fact that previous environmental catastrophes have been remedied. Acid rain was going to kill us all, then the hole in the ozone layer, then Malthusian growth and starvation. All have been largely ( as in imminent destruction is not going to happen) "solved". Is the prevailing unspoken wisdom "Ehh, tech will eventually save us".
posted by Keith Talent at 11:00 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]


During the Maunder Minimum, temperatures in Europe dipped (the Thames froze over completely a time or two), and this has been attributed to more cosmic rays getting through a weaker Solar magnetic field and causing more cloud cover in the Earth's atmosphere.

Ten years or so ago, I started seeing predictions that we were heading into another period of deep sunspot minimums — though no one was predicting anything as extreme as the Maunder Minimum — and the thought was this would give us a bit of a respite from Global Warming to get our act together.

Well, we are in the middle of a pretty deep minimum right at this moment.
posted by jamjam at 11:08 AM on July 25 [12 favorites]


Just remember that global warming is a myth and it will all be OK. (/s)
posted by Chuffy at 11:18 AM on July 25


Today the BBC Weather Twitter account was getting excited about breaking the record for a UK highest temperature (with plenty of scathing replies). This goes along with even the Guardian illustrating their heatwave stories with pictures of people having fun on the beach, giving it a "woo, great weather for the summer holidays" framing instead of "record high temperatures which will literally kill people, and are evidence of continuing climate change" framing.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:20 AM on July 25 [10 favorites]


> Jam2, I have been reading about the current solar minimum, and the possibility that it may be more so. Some of it reeks of sensationalism, but even reduced sunspot activity that results in slight cooling is only a tiny respite, if at all. If you have a good undertsanding of it, could be a good front page post.
posted by theora55 at 11:27 AM on July 25




is set to envelop Scandinavia in the next two days

YLE news came out with this gem today.

In Finland, the maximum temperature a residential dwelling is permitted to reach is 32 degrees Celsius.

Its set to breach 30C tomorrow and feel like 35C outside. Imagine what the oh so well insulated from the Arctic wind tiny little flats with double glazing are going to feel like.

Otoh, we've had a colder than usual July so there's that comfort.

I say we follow Greta out into the streets on Fridays
posted by Mrs Potato at 11:35 AM on July 25 [9 favorites]


I live in Texas. It takes me most of the month of June to get acclimated to summer. Now, working outside does not slay me as it would if I were not acclimated. I can't imagine how people in Europe are feeling with this intense heat thrust upon them. I assume weakness and nausea are common, and hope that it does not progress to heat stroke. Remember that a bath or shower is a refuge from the heat.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 11:45 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


We don’t have air conditioning in most homes, and at least in my building the cold water is warm, I’ve still taken 3 showers today.

41 degrees is the hottest I’ve ever experienced, and I worked from home today as I do twice a week to be able to stay full time with fibromyalgia. I’m going to make a rule I work from the air conditioned office if it’s over 35 degrees.

It has been so so hot, I’m buying an air conditioning unit for next summer, this is impossible.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:50 AM on July 25 [7 favorites]


it's not like individual choices are going to make a difference outside of the individual choices made when voting


No offense poffin boffin, but this is just wrong. The very act of thinking something makes a difference and acting on it is integral to forcing larger systemic change. We might not be in an era when mass strikes are as possible as they once were, but demanding action on climate change doesn't even require that same kind of mass action, just the belief this matters and acting as if it does. If people would treat climate change as a serious issue in their personal lives, they would demand it of those they elect as well and those elected would damn well know it. Companies can't profit from people not buying wasteful products or using services that harm the environment far out of proportion to their use. Losing profits gets attention.

Even were this only minimally true, and like voting, saying my vote, my action doesn't really matter in the grand scale of it all, actively spreading that message goes beyond your own belief to spreading it as a truth for all and thus, at least potentially now adding the inactions of any other the claim of uselessness of acting might have helped convince. As with voting, the belief that "it doesn't matter" has a cascade effect, leaving fewer people to vote or care as everyone else is too jaded and doesn't want to be taken for a sucker by caring about things they can't change. If no one acts as if their own decision matter, then no action will happen until it's too late and everyone suffers for it.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:03 PM on July 25 [21 favorites]


In North America I’ve been “following Greta out into the streets on Friday” for the past fourteen weeks; let me tell you, setting aside one day a week to organize for change feels better than just about anything else I could be doing at this point in time.
posted by Verg at 12:04 PM on July 25 [11 favorites]


it's bad and I don't like it but also I feel betrayed by certain snowy promises made by early 2000s disaster films.

Oh don't worry, that's still on the menu
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:08 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


> Remember that a bath or shower is a refuge from the heat.

NICE TRY, DAD
posted by davelog at 12:19 PM on July 25 [7 favorites]


In Finland, the maximum temperature a residential dwelling is permitted to reach is 32 degrees Celsius.
Just under 90° F. That would be awful unless the humidity was extremely low. Then all you would need is a spray bottle and a fan.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:23 PM on July 25


I'm in Paris. Can confirm it was way worse than its ever been for me in Australia, where I live, even the weeks where we have 45 degrees for days on end. 42 with no air-conditioning, or even fans, even in public buildings, and with buildings designed to trap sunshine, is absolutely horrifying. And the concrete, bricks and stone everywhere work like an oven.

Last night it was still 35 degrees in our apartment at 2am. I actually started crying at some point because I felt like my body was just getting hotter and hotter without any possibility of relief.
posted by lollusc at 12:46 PM on July 25 [22 favorites]


HOW TO SURVIVE THE #HEATWAVE

🥤stay hydrated
🍦treat yourself to an ice cream
✊dismantle the fossil fuel industry which is literally burning the planet for the short term profit of a vanishingly small capitalist class
👕loose fitting clothing

(from twitter)
posted by Ned G at 12:48 PM on July 25 [19 favorites]


Today I've been having cold showers every couple of hours. But they help for about 20 minutes and then it's like you never had one. And there are six people in our apartment and one bath/shower, so there's a limit to how much time a single person can spend there.
posted by lollusc at 12:48 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


It was so hot during the Tour de France today that the tv crews' cables were melting.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 1:08 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


The very act of thinking something makes a difference and acting on it is integral to forcing larger systemic change.

I do what I can--I don't own a car, I switched my electricity generation company to a local renewable energy co-op, I shop locally as much as possible, etc. but I am under no illusions that these changes are making a material difference to the problem, nor do I think most people are even thinking about doing this stuff. Most people (in America at least) live in places where it is unrealistic to completely give up personal automobile ownership, for instance.

It really does feel like we're at a tipping point--that this might soon be treated as the massive existential problem that it is, and certainly I'm not going to stop anyone from cutting their own personal carbon emissions--but like so many problems caused by capitalism, the people in power will do all they can to personalize systemic problems. It wasn't massive financial fraud that caused the crash of 2008--it was stupid people taking out mortgages they couldn't afford. It's not a legacy of white supremacy that makes non-white people have less generational wealth than whites--we just need their kids to go to college. Climate change is similarly being subtly changed from "this isn't a problem" to "you need to cut your carbon emissions by composting, eating less meat, and riding a bike."

I mean, sure. People shouldn't take our mortgages they can't afford. People should go to college if they want. People should go vegan and buy a hybrid. But who is the system built for, and who benefits if you do what you are told to do?
posted by Automocar at 1:13 PM on July 25 [17 favorites]


Sure, if everyone, all at once, took the same dramatic actions the fundamentals would change. But that’s magical thinking. If all the molecules in the broken egg magically moved in the right direction the egg would be whole again.

We need better systems, and for that we need research on a massive scale, and a pipeline for bringing the fruits of that research to production. For that we need concerted effort from government, investors, research facilities and the public.

We also need incentives to decarbonize, which means a hefty price on carbon.

Without the above two, nothing will change more than a smidge. So get to work on the systemic stuff. Start researching, join a group, put in your time. I recommend Citizens Climate Lobby. Find your own if you want. But DO SOMETHING NOW.

I’ve been lucky enough to be connected to a group in Washington State that has worked on getting our regional power supplier to scrap their coal plants (no, it’s not all hydro up here) and replace them with renewable power by a fixed deadline. For that, we had to talk to the regulatory commission that sets prices and convince them to committing to factoring carbon emissions into “fair” pricing. They became willing! We had to convince the state Attorney General’s office to give the legal okay to extend the commission’s right to factor in environmental costs. They did!

We went to hearings that never used to have anyone at them, then suddenly there were hundreds of us signed up to testify, all wearing red, all making the same close and legally sound arguments. That mattered. In the end, Puget Sound Energy worked out a deal to close their coal plants early. Now it’s on to renewable energy, and removing the logistical barriers there.

That is the work. Find the levers that affect the systems that, in turn, affect millions of people. Then lean on those levers.

P.s. The big evil system that rebuffs change is not Big Bad Corporations or The 1%. It is us.
posted by argybarg at 1:39 PM on July 25 [24 favorites]


Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists

Jul 8, 2017 · A concerted effort is underway in dozens of states to roll back solar power incentives. One of its ... nonprofit that receives funding from the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H Koch ...

That said, thank you for your good work, argybarg.
posted by jamjam at 2:12 PM on July 25 [3 favorites]


That would be awful unless the humidity was extremely low. Then all you would need is a spray bottle and a fan.

Humidity is very low. I find a fan is enough. I'll find out tomorrow once it spikes though the night has cooled down and I put the fan in the window.
posted by Mrs Potato at 3:05 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I'm shamelessly going to the airconditioned mall tomorrow under rather flimsy pretexts
posted by Mrs Potato at 3:08 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Verg, you inspire me to bring Greta's Friday to the university I'm joining next month.
posted by Mrs Potato at 3:12 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Sending my love and compassion to all the mefites in Europe right now.
posted by nikaspark at 3:17 PM on July 25 [4 favorites]


Jamjam:

There are bad actors, and they should be pilloried for what they do. But even if there were only good actors, people who understood that climate change is real and serious and wanted to do something about it, we’d still be in a hell of a fix. Because the people who get rich selling carbon-intensive goods and services got that way because we all pay them money for their goods and services, for our oil paints and our medical services and our classrooms and our internet service and every other fucking thing we rely upon. Does anyone know the simple way to untie that giant knot?
posted by argybarg at 3:41 PM on July 25 [5 favorites]


Here in central London it was 36 degrees this afternoon, but it has dropped by about ten degrees now. The humidity remains at about 50%, so it's still pretty uncomfortable. Luckily for me I didn't have to go out today, so I could alternate my time between reading in bed under an open window and reading in a cold bath. It must be truly horrible to have to commute in this. The worst of it is that it usually doesn't stay this hot for long enough to become acclimatised, which usually takes me a couple of weeks.
posted by Fuchsoid at 4:40 PM on July 25


On a whim, I checked out the Twitter feed of an old friend of mine who I've pretty much lost touch with and who writes about environmental issues. Naturally, he had a few tweets and re-tweets about the European heat wave, and about half of the responses were from people who are just desperate to the point of being angry to believe that everything is JUST FINE and nobody needs to do anything.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:06 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


[...]We also need incentives to decarbonize, which means a hefty price on carbon. [...] Without the above two, nothing will change more than a smidge. So get to work on the systemic stuff.

Right! I've posted the link in several previous threads on climate change so I'm sure y'all are over it, but talking about individual actions can be actively counterproductive as it reduces support for the necessary meaningful changes, like carbon taxes. By all means; don't eat meat or don't fly. But those things are never, ever going to have a substantial enough effect and proselytizing for them, counterintuitively, probably makes it harder to fight climate change.

The only effective way to approach climate change is to vote for people who will institute broad-scaled anti-carbon measures. So that's what I do, and I don't sweat the small individual stuff.
posted by Justinian at 6:02 PM on July 25 [10 favorites]


Looks like we’ve finally solved the Fermi Paradox.

So we have that going for us.

(I’m sorry the answer is such a let down, Mr. Sagan.)
posted by Construction Concern at 6:54 PM on July 25 [5 favorites]


Yeah, we really haven't been trying to keep it a secret. It's been published in the literature. We talk about it in the press. Mostly, then we get stalked and harassed for doing so.

I'm not a climate change researcher, but I use climate change research all the time in my work. Outside of purely professional circles (and even sometimes there), climate change is something you have to dance around or avoid totally, otherwise you get yelled at and sometimes threatened. And this is in settings where people are fairly informed and already talking about environmental kinds of things.

I really feel for people in federal agencies in the US; some of them are basically on lock-down and can't even say the words "climate change," while others are still working under rules that require them to take climate change into account. It leads to some really awkward meetings and emails.

Europe has, on the whole, really good infrastructure. But most of it was designed for historic temperature regimes, not climate change, and the investment it will take to upgrade it all is daunting.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:55 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


15 years ago when I talked to a good friend who does climate research, she said (well, besides "we're fucked") that what concerned her was warming getting bad enough that the permafrost started melting & releasing huge amounts of methane, which was a more powerful heat-trapping gas, & that it could quickly create a feedback loop that spiraled global warming out of control.

This is still the bomb that is in the process of dropping. Once it has, our goose is cooked. Meanwhile, we can't even stop logging in the Amazon from reaching a tipping point that threatens to turn the forest into a Savannah permanently.

What will it take to fix climate change at this point? Massive investment in renewable energy. Massive changes in infrastructure. And we'll still have to invent technology to efficiently suck carbon from the air.

Worse, I've never seen such resistance to an idea from the right. Merely asking some conservatives to consider climate change as real for the purposes of conversation is a bridge too far. I've actually met conservatives that acknowledge its reality, but at the same time believe fixes will lead to communism. They would rather humanity perish.
posted by xammerboy at 10:05 PM on July 25 [8 favorites]


I am big fan of the approach advocated by Citizens Climate Lobby (carbon fee and dividend), but in the next 17 months, the only thing that matters (in the U.S.) is winning a majority in the Senate. If that doesn't happen, all the good policy ideas are just dust in the wind...
posted by PhineasGage at 11:01 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


In 10 years we'll look back at 2019's heat and think "that wasn't so bad".
posted by nnethercote at 12:02 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


Last night there were lightning storms across Europe. It was incredible here in Amsterdam. Despite having witnessed intense tropical storms in Central Mexico, I've seen nothing like this.

Last night, I was closest to a lightning strike I have ever been in my life. The strikes were getting louder and brighter and had woken us up with their intensity. As we were gazing out the window, an immense lightning flash appeared right in front of us. It was so bright that for a moment I feared that I had caused damage to my eyes. The flash was followed immediately by a deafening crack of thunder that had us running away from windows to the center of our house. Our hearts were racing after having been thrown out of bed at 4am. This, along with the high temperatures made for a memorable night around here.

This morning we were woken up early by the sound of inspection crews. A building across the street, where I believe the lightning hit, had its top windows blown out.
posted by vacapinta at 12:20 AM on July 26 [14 favorites]


I'm shamelessly going to the airconditioned mall tomorrow under rather flimsy pretexts

I considered this, but the part where I have to go outside to GET to the mall is unpleasant enough...

I keep having conversations here in Germany that go "Does it get this hot where you come from in the US?" "Yes, in the Midwest the summers are regularly over 40, but we had air conditioning..."
posted by jeudi at 12:44 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Ultimately a solution will involve a large scale system change which will not be the sum of actions available for individuals to take within the current paradigm.

However, I would also like to put forward the following argument for why your own efforts could make a difference to the outcome. I wrote this in response to an article in the guardian, which was making a moral argument that there's no moral value to personal efforts, but it works for this as well, I think. Naturally because it was a moral question I've written a trolley problem, everyone loves trolley problems:

Imagine a trolley, speeding toward a junction. On one branch is a child, tied to the rails.

You are in the plant room and can cut power to the trolley, but this will only slow it down - the trolley's momentum alone will kill the child. However, you see across the way a stranger in the signal box, surrounded by levers controlling the points in the station. They are frantically pulling levers, but so far they haven't hit on the one which diverts the trolley.

Should you cut the power to slow the trolley?

We are on the tracks - if we survive, it will be because of a political or technical breakthrough before it's too late. We don't know precisely when too late is - it could be ten years, or twenty, or ten years ago and we're buggered. Each individual's emissions savings make too late a little later, which changes the odds of survival a little bit (or our estimate of the odds - this is probably the philosophical weak spot in the argument).

Maybe the plane trip you don't take or the car you stop driving or the product you choose not to buy is the marginal decision that gives time to avert disaster. If we do avert disaster, one of these decisions must be that marginal decision, somewhere, somewhen.

These choices are tickets in the not-extinction lottery, and it makes sense to play when you can, as much as you can (but don't do this at the expense of agitating for system change).
posted by larkery at 2:35 AM on July 26 [8 favorites]


Imagine you're in a desert, and you're a tortoise walking along in the sand, and a man comes along and flips you over. Your belly starts baking in the hot sun, and you try to turn yourself over but you can't. The man is watching you, but he isn't helping. Why is that?
posted by um at 3:14 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


The man is watching you, but he isn't helping. Why is that?

He's a Tory
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:18 AM on July 26 [24 favorites]


This is the way I see it: either most of us must die, or all of us must die.

We seem to be too stupid, greedy and shortsighted to do what is required, and what is required is almost impossible anyway.

Forget about merely cutting emissions. Even reducing them to zero won't do it, there's too much damage already done, and decades more locked in from what's up there already. We need to put this thing into reverse. We need to be extracting carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back where we found it.

Needless to say, to do this would take more energy than we got from burning it in the first place, and where's that coming from? Nuclear fusion? Maybe, but we're decades off getting that to work, and anyway we needed to start putting carbon back 40 years ago, so by the time it's feasible that ship will have well and truly sailed.

With a massive, single-minded, coordinated global effort, we could maybe go all out on nuclear fission immediately, and buy ourselves some time to wean off combustion and wait for fusion to come on line. But even in the best case scenario, we're not going to get that up and running overnight either. Realistically, you can forget it.

And even if we did all that, it's not going to put much of a dent in the two biggest contributors to the problem: agriculture and construction. If you want to cut back on those, you're going to have to cut back on people.

And that's what it all comes down to: there are too many of us. Nature would stand some hope of withstanding this onslaught and healing itself if there were a billion humans living as we do now. But we've got seven times that many and still rising. And it's taboo to mention it while the global economy depends on neverending growth.

Don't talk to me about the impact my choices as an individual can make. We're so far past that. The only thing that counts is removing carbon from the atmosphere. Anything else is just window-dressing to stop the population from despairing completely.

It's weird to think a plague is our only hope, but here we are.
posted by Buck Alec at 8:58 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]


Real question: if much of your family lives far away from you (in the US) and there are multiple reasons you really can't live closer enough to easily drive instead of fly, how do you meaningfully determine whether the best decision carbon-wise is a car or train, even though it takes much longer, or to fly less often and make a longer trip, or some combination?
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:36 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


We would have to be the first species that refitted its behavior to an idea of the future. And individual humans can do that, although not very well or consistently. The mass of 7+ billion human is not a thinking thing; it's a swarm, and it cannot think ahead.

It's deus ex machina or bust at this point.
posted by argybarg at 9:41 AM on July 26


I admit that this is not necessarily a cohesive and bulletproof thesis or anything, but one thing that I have noticed that seems to separate our age from those in the past is the lack of concern on the part of elites for anything that happens beyond the threshold of their lifetime.

This seems ahistorically weird. I mean, building things that transcend your lifespan and exist into the future is, or I would have said at one point was, something almost universally human. And yet it seems like the people who control the majority of wealth and power today fundamentally don't care. It's bizarre.

Ancient civilizations quarried rock and carried stones over long distances to build temples and public buildings, at extraordinary effort and expense, so that those buildings would last -- there's no reason why, if they'd only cared about them lasting through their own lives, they couldn't have built them out of timber or something similarly temporary. (And probably a lot of their other buildings, the ones that haven't survived, were. Obviously there is a survivorship bias in what we are aware of today.) But the point is that they did build things to last, beyond their own lives.

Medieval cathedrals were so huge, built on such a massive scale, that their creation often took longer than a single person's lifetime; nobody who was involved in the beginning of the process reasonably expected to see the final product, much less the lifespan of the structure -- which presumably they intended to last forever. The institution that maintained them (the Church) was likewise designed to last perpetually.

The "great" industrialists of the 19th century were not, by and large, exactly nice people to their fellow man, but many of them became philanthropists, building institutions designed to outlast themselves. And so we have a public landscape littered with institutions that bear their names, some of which will probably be remembered long after the companies that provided those fortunes have faded into esoteric memory.

I don't think you can say that the motivations for all of these feats were necessarily the same, but they all seemed to involve a sort of striving for immortality through great works, which necessitates doing things that other people recognize as great, so they don't get torn down too quickly. Whether it's monuments to faith or government or learning or whatever, the point is that they are meant to last, and in so doing provide a way of ensuring one's legacy into the future.

Today's powermongers don't seem concerned by their legacy, or really anything at all beyond their own lifetimes. I don't know why this is, or what changed, but it's a significant departure from everything that people who amass wealth and power generally do once they've amassed it. There's a pervasive nihilism there, which even the Carnegies and the Fricks didn't seem to partake of. Today's elites are so obsessed with the present and, critically, so out of touch with their own mortality, that they genuinely don't seem to care.

I'm of the opinion that it's this nihilism that's an existential threat to our species, more than just about anything else. There is no way to solve big problems at scale unless you can convince the people with power that it's a good idea to solve them. (And yes, I realize a lot of people think that the solution here is to seize power from them, but this strikes me as a "and now you have two problems" sort of 'solution', and one we don't have time for in any event.) One wouldn't think that convincing a bunch of people who have legacies to protect to help ensure the continuity of civilization, would be hard. And yet: we have people like the Kochs actively undermining any sort of long-term climate change planning in order to make a fast buck.

I'm not sure how you fix that. Because I'm not even sure what changed; why is it that someone like Andrew Carnegie made his money and then decided to go running around legacy-building, while the Kochs don't seem to give a shit? What changed?
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:48 AM on July 26 [16 favorites]


how do you meaningfully determine whether the best decision carbon-wise is a car or train, even though it takes much longer, or to fly less often and make a longer trip, or some combination?

I don't think you really do determine that at this point? There's no choice that doesn't cause some amount of harm, and yes, making yourself crazy stressed and depressed over Trying To Be Good Always also counts as harm. The Chidi Paradox.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:40 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


why is it that someone like Andrew Carnegie made his money and then decided to go running around legacy-building, while the Kochs don't seem to give a shit? What changed?

Nothing changed. There were plenty of rich assholes who didn't legacy build in the past.

The modern equivalent of Carnegie isn't the Kochs, it's Bill Gates. The Gates foundation is doing widespread and wonderful work. For example; working to eliminate malaria. That one act would save tens of millions of lives. At least.
posted by Justinian at 12:13 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Greta at the Assemblée Nationale last Tuesday.

Trains may not be able to run because, again rails buckle under the heat (To answer: Why don't they buckle in Spain etc, it is again because the rails in the UK for example were not designed initially to accomodate this expansion)

Austria, Switzerland and Germany are experimenting with painting rails white.

However, I would also like to put forward the following argument for why your own efforts could make a difference to the outcome. I wrote this in response to an article in the guardian, which was making a moral argument that there's no moral value to personal efforts

M.L. Heglar: I work in the environmental movement. I don’t care if you recycle.

Please get involved 20th-27th September.
posted by progosk at 12:56 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Also (for theorists): J. Butler interviews G. Mann - Climate Leviathan (or Behemoth / Mao / X)
posted by progosk at 1:04 PM on July 26


I say we follow Greta out into the streets on Fridays

In North America I’ve been “following Greta out into the streets on Friday” for the past fourteen weeks

FFF US and FFF Canada (both will be active on Sept 20th); still waiting YCS US's September agenda.
posted by progosk at 1:17 PM on July 26


'Unprecedented': more than 100 Arctic wildfires burn in worst ever season
Huge blazes in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska are producing plumes of smoke that can be seen from space
The fires are not merely the result of surface ignition of dry vegetation: in some cases the underlying peat has caught fire. Such fires can last for days or months and produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases.

“These are some of the biggest fires on the planet, with a few appearing to be larger than 100,000 hectares,” Smith said.

“The amount of [carbon dioxide] emitted from Arctic circle fires in June 2019 is larger than all of the CO2 released from Arctic circle fires in the same month from 2010 through to 2018 put together.”
posted by XMLicious at 2:18 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


As much as we all loathe the Kochs, they are in fact giving away a lot of money to social causes and the arts. It's up to us to make sure those donations don't buy them respectability.
posted by PhineasGage at 4:03 PM on July 26


I'm of the opinion that it's this nihilism that's an existential threat to our species, more than just about anything else…. I'm not sure how you fix that. Because I'm not even sure what changed.
We are caught between nihilism and fantasy. Our metanarratives (spirituality, science) have not protected us from these plagues. We must recapture both spirituality and science from the nihilists and the fantasists. Believe it or not, there have been thinkers who saw this situation, and provided the tools to overcome it. I leave it to those so inclined to find them and use them.
posted by No Robots at 10:20 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


there have been thinkers who saw this situation, and provided the tools to overcome it. I leave it to those so inclined to find them and use them.

Why the riddling? (Honest question.)
posted by progosk at 12:10 AM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Maybe to allow a variety of interpretations, where that would be a good thing? It made me smile, and I would point to the enormously insightful work of Bruno Latour, which will incense some people and resonate with others.
posted by stonepharisee at 12:15 AM on July 27 [1 favorite]


OK, thx for the tip.

Our metanarratives (spirituality, science) have not protected us from these plagues.

This reminded me of an aside by Adam Curtis in a (rare) interview, where he mentions he's as yet unsure which of those two, science or religion, might (re-)emerge to offer a viable/successful future narrative. Currently, both the Pope and 12,000+ scientists are with Greta...
posted by progosk at 1:37 AM on July 27 [1 favorite]


@stonepharisee: Thanks for the tip on Bruno Latour. I'll add him to my list.
posted by No Robots at 6:41 AM on July 27


His latest is Facing Gaia, a reworking and overhaul of the series of 6 lectures given: the Gifford Lectures in Natural Theology (which is funny, but oddly apt, given his schtick). Those were in about 2013, if I recall. Facing Gaia is rich, but it comes after a long life facing the interaction of how objective facts are constructed, wielded, and then used to move people to action. He notes the speed at which the powers that be were mobilized for the smaller threat of the cold war, a gross overreaction. And now we have the best facts ever made, and they are not mobilizing people.
posted by stonepharisee at 7:33 AM on July 27


Thanks, stonepharisee, but I am scared off by reader reviews of Latour's recent books. Any pointers to more accessible presentations of his thoughts, or other authors who have similar insights?
posted by PhineasGage at 7:43 AM on July 27


As I said, many hate it. I speak from my position and he makes 7 kinds of sense no one else seems to be making in an ongoing end of the world (whose world? what end?) situation. I won't proselytise, I'm just honestly reporting that from the odd place I come from intellectually, he has helped me think about many significant things.
posted by stonepharisee at 7:51 AM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Latour looks like profound, challenging stuff, sure to be anathema to all kinds of thinkers, I imagine.

Some colleges have made pdf's available online of Facing Gaia (even of the Gifford Lectures it's based on) and of Down To Earth...
posted by progosk at 10:51 AM on July 27 [1 favorite]


For a professor of ethics, I'm surprised Peter Gratton is openly pirating Latour's copyrighted materials.
posted by PhineasGage at 11:58 AM on July 27


I like this bit from Latour's Wikipedia entry: "Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?" Critique has become epistemologic nihilism, allowing in turn a free run for fantasy. What's the point of suggesting readings if everything is dismissed for one trumped up reason or other?
posted by No Robots at 9:30 AM on July 28


Maybe I'm insufficiently familiar with the academic use of "critique" but is suggesting readings really a form of critique? On the internet, at least, saying that someone will only really be able to comprehend your points if they go off and read a book first tends to come across as a rhetorical attempt to send your interlocutor off on a wild goose chase.

I was, however, more enthusiastically interested than usual at the possibility you might provide a quotation or link furnishing the tools to overcome an existential threat to our species.
posted by XMLicious at 10:53 AM on July 28


is suggesting readings really a form of critique?

You misunderstand. Knee-jerk criticism is the reason why it is useless to suggest readings.

saying that someone will only really be able to comprehend your points if they go off and read a book first tends to come across as a rhetorical attempt to send your interlocutor off on a wild goose chase.

stonepharisee has suggested a reading. No one commented on it other than to whine that it is too difficult or that some other prof is ripping him off. This is an example of Latour's point that critique has run out of steam.

I was, however, more enthusiastically interested than usual at the possibility you might provide a quotation or link furnishing the tools to overcome an existential threat to our species.

The failure to even comment on Latour's points is proof that to me that anything I would offer would be received in even worse humour. Why would I cast pearls before swine? Anyone who wants to know what works for me can easily find out by looking at my profile. I've belaboured my points ad nauseum on this site. Just read a few of my posts. Do I really have to quote Constantin Brunner, Harry Waton, Spinoza again? The point is that our thinking is bad and that leads to action that is bad. Mankind must improve its understanding in order to improve life.
posted by No Robots at 11:05 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


The point is that our thinking is bad and that leads to action that is bad.

I appreciate you summarizing the pearls here, at least, and that they work for you.
posted by XMLicious at 11:44 AM on July 28


The failure to even comment on Latour's points is proof that to me that anything I would offer would be received in even worse humour.

#notallswine

I pointed to the Latour pdfs so others might, like myself in time, follow through on stonepharisee’s (albeit reluctant) invitation. And I’d have been surprised/disoncerted to see any quick hot takes on his corpus here: it seems like the sort of work that’s unlikely to really internet-forum that well. So I guess I’m with XMLicious on this.
posted by progosk at 12:36 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Mankind must improve its understanding in order to improve life.

Since almost all of the dire threats to our very survival that we currently face stem directly from our huge success in using our understanding to improve our lives, I hope you'll excuse my skepticism about this assertion. (Not to mention the skepticism using 'mankind' to refer to the human species rather than 'humankind' ought to arouse these days, especially in a discussion of how we've gone wrong).
posted by jamjam at 12:39 PM on July 28


The planet is on fire, so it seems unobjectionable to be reluctant to take the time to read a French philosopher's widely-described-as-difficult-to-grok pensees. I am NOT criticizing him at all (and of course not disagreeing with him, since even the NYT profile a while back left me completely unclear on what exactly he is arguing and how it can/should affect my life), merely expressing my belief that the burden should be on the speaker/writer to communicate clearly if they want to persuade and motivate large numbers of people to make social/political change. I genuinely appreciate the Latour recommendation, just found it is apparently over my head. Now I am going to get back to work raising money to win some swing U.S. Senate seats. Please send your own donations to Flip the West.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:48 PM on July 28


And I’d have been surprised/disoncerted to see any quick hot takes on his corpus here: it seems like the sort of work that’s unlikely to really internet-forum that well.

This. However, i do believe that it is worthwhile reading things that do not lend themselves to hot takes.

I find Latour is easier to follow when he speaks (transcript of interview).

This lecture is also an “easier“ read, but as the audience was academic it is sometimes difficult but not too much.
posted by 15L06 at 1:18 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I wrote the comment sitting in my mother's house, in Austria, the water supply for the house is a well, which this year for the first time since it was built in the 1950s has almost run dry this past April due to an exceptional lx dry winter.
It is due to be connected to the communal water supply next week, but until then anything using too much water is impossible: running the dish washer, washing machine, even a lenghthy shower, or flushing the loo causes the pump to shut down and then you need to wait for it to refill...

I am here just on holiday, usually i live in Vienna, which is going through the terrible heat wave, all that concrete keeps the heat stored so nights are horrid. As some have pointed out A/C is not common in Europe, and anyway not a solution that can be sustained.
I water the vegetables with rain water but the storage tank is not replenished so I am careful. All day today there were rain clouds but no rain.
Experiencing this makes me think that what is needed are less activism and flight shame or whatever and theorizing on climate change but instead focus on practical solutions.
I am convinced the change is here, and definitely happens. And I am equally convinced that investing in solutions for living with it are much more useful than activism.
At least i live in a country where the communal water supply is an option. I think that accepting the change is a more long term solution, i wish more was talked about how to address the changes in weather cycles and temperature instead of theoretical musings on how to stop it. It wont stop. We will need to adapt in practial steps.
posted by 15L06 at 2:04 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


Now there's a metatalk

Crossposting some of my comment in that thread here because the MT thread made me reflect on the post framing.

In retrospect, I wish I had framed the heatwave in the context of the 'green wave' in the recent European elections and the subsequent candidacy speech given by the President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to the European Parliament a week before the heatwave. She announced a European Green Deal and said: 'Our most pressing challenge is keeping our planet healthy. This is the greatest responsibility and opportunity of our times' and announced various actions the EU will take under her mandate.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:20 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


> jeudi: I keep having conversations here in Germany that go "Does it get this hot where you come from in the US?" "Yes, in the Midwest the summers are regularly over 40, but we had air conditioning..."
I grew up in the Midwest without AC until I was maybe 14. No AC in schools, churches, etc., when I was a kid. And high humidity. It can be made bearable, mostly. Humans have lived on the planet without AC for most of history. They complained a lot, of course.

note: I understand that modern buildings and cities are different, etc. this is a tiny point of anecdata.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 AM on July 30


Climate Change Denial and Refusal to Change is well-funded. This is about corporate profit, and is a crime against humanity.

The Metatalk is about the glooming-n-dooming, so I'll mention Paul Hawken's Project Drawdown, which is about actual solutions.

I'm going to call my hand-wringing Senator Susan Collins. She'll just express concern, but I'm still going to keep calling. Call your elected officials. Often. Individuals can do some stuff, but this is a job for governments.
posted by theora55 at 7:53 AM on July 30




Sprinkling water on the bedsheets helps if its a dry hot climate.
posted by Mrs Potato at 11:09 AM on July 31


I've covered the skylights with those mylar emergency blankets. Some light still gets in, and most of the sun heat is bounced off. Works wonders on sunny windows, too.

We are now down to nicely normal temeratures again but it was pretty brutal. I've spent a lot of time indoors. We have ceiling fans in most rooms and it helps. So. Freaking. Much.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:35 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


Yes we covered skylights with sheets. Reflective stuff would be even better I think.

The final night of the the really bad heat while I was in Paris I completely soaked a bedsheet in water (from the tap, so not quite cold, but lukewarm) and draped it over myself to sleep. It worked fairly well. I did actually manage to sleep. The sheet was dry by 3am though.

I don't know what I would have done in a more humid environment where it wouldn't have evaporated.
posted by lollusc at 7:23 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Deutsche Welle English's DocFilm: “Alpine Twilight - Europe without Glaciers” (42½ min. video, .mp4 link)
It is far too late to save the Alpine glaciers. And now, the dangers caused by tons of melting ice are rising sharply. Every year, climate change is destroying two of the currently 70 square kilometers of glaciers left in the Alps.

[...] experts are forecasting that by mid-century, there will only be enough natural snow left to ski above 2,000 meters, which will spell out the end for about 70 percent of the ski resorts in the Eastern Alps. But instead of developing alternatives, lots of money is still being invested in ski tourism. Snow cannon are used to defy climate change, and artificial snow systems are under construction at ever higher altitudes.
posted by XMLicious at 4:18 AM on August 5


You know when they say we’re witnessing the sixth mass extinction, and even though it rings true, it still feels kind of remote and intangible? I never expected to come so tangibly face to face with it as I happened to, yesterday.

We’re on Limnos, one of the larger islands in the North Aegean. Just like last year (on a different Aegean island at the same latitude), we spend a fair amount of time snorkeling the shores. I took the relative lack of marine fauna here, compared to last year’s island’s, to be something to do with this island’s particular ecosystem. And then I came across a ghostly, in-situ marine cemetery. In a typical patch of posidonia, arranged like scattered, weathered headstones, stood thirty-odd, half-metre-high adult fan mussels. (Pinna nobilis are a signature mollusc species of the Mediterranean- they do not grow/live elsewhere - objects of legend and wonder. Last year we were proud samaritans to an uprooted young individual we’d found, diving to a deep, secluded spot to replant its byssus into the sand, nearby others of its kind.) Perplexed by what looked like a sudden-death scenario, I googled some, and learned a new term: MME. A cryptogenic pathogen has been exterminating pinna nobilis populations straight across the entire Mediterranean, in direct correlation with the year-upon-year record breaking sea temperatures.

To actually directly witness mass-extinction... I wish it on no-one. (To end this on a practical note: the paper includes an appeal for citizen-scientist initiatives of noble pen shell monitoring, in the desperate hope of locating some resistant refugia colonies; I’m liaising with a Mediterranean naturalist forum I’ve connected with before, and there’s been some recent, timid signs of hope in parts of Italy...)
posted by progosk at 2:47 AM on August 10 [3 favorites]


I’ve had chance to peruse Latour’s Facing Gaia. Lot’s of useful material in there. All this posting on the internet is worth it if it coughs up things like this now and then.
I agree with Latour that we are now in a state of war. I proudly take my place with the Earthbound in opposition to the Humans.
posted by No Robots at 6:19 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


« Older A celebration of blasphemy, with 17 kinds of...   |   How to fund Christmas Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.