• 7/26/2023 8:05:22 AM

Too Hot, and It Will Get Even Hotter

Barış Onur Örs

The World Meteorological Organization announced that June 2023 was the hottest June in our history. A record surface temperature was recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Then in the first week of July, global average temperature records were broken consecutively. July 6, with a global average temperature of 17.23°C, was recorded as the "hottest day ever recorded." Climate change, a long-denied, frightening reality, is now becoming an inseparable part of our lives.

The End of Denial

With the extraordinary global temperatures we have recently experienced, we can say that we have left the phase of climate change denial behind. Despite the frequent occurrence of extreme natural events due to climate change, the world's public opinion tended to avoid linking these events.

For example, despite the pandemic causing millions of deaths and economic damage by stopping social life, we tended to ignore its connection with globalization, industrial activities, and our consumption culture. The reach of the Covid-19 virus to pandemic dimensions was associated with the general structure of industrial animal farming, crowding of cities, reduction of food diversity with the disappearance of locality, and the intensification of global commercial and tourist activities. Many scientific studies showed that this situation was also linked to global environmental changes such as habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. But this context was generally overlooked, and the pandemic was evaluated as an exceptional event that happened to us, and its anthropogenic aspect was not discussed enough.

Large-scale climate events, from giant forest fires to floods and droughts, have not been sufficient to change our lifestyles so far, although they occupy the world agenda, because they occur at different times in different regions. Even a deadly global pandemic like the pandemic became the subject of conspiracy theories because the culprit is an invisible virus and the number of unaffected people is much more than those affected. Supposedly fires were started by someone for profit or chaos, the virus was produced in a lab to design the world, major earthquakes were triggered via satellites, experiments conducted in the sky by some companies were causing floods, hurricanes. Either excessively detailed conspiracy theories like these or the unheedful trivialization of extreme weather events that need no explanation... Humanity has been preoccupied with these two irrational attitudes for a long time. Now, while we take refuge in air-conditioned rooms to avoid getting sick from the heat, we may dare to reflect on the time we have been losing for decades, dwindling like an hourglass, and what we could do from this point onwards.

Climate Procrastination

Global temperatures, beyond being just peaks on graphs that mean nothing to many, have now risen above an average that no one can deny. How ironic that we can only accept the reality of global warming when our bodies are scorched by heat! We can now say that we are in a completely new phase. We have left the phase of climate change denial behind. To find real solutions, we now need to overcome other forms of climate procrastination.

Climate procrastination is used to describe attitudes and policies that delay confronting the climate crisis and producing genuine solutions. Procrastination usually leads to short-term economic interests or political gains taking precedence over permanent solutions. The most common form of climate procrastination was to deny climate change; as mentioned above, the increasing extreme climate events at least seem to have broken this denial. Other forms of procrastination can be listed as downplaying the effects of climate change, delaying action against the climate crisis, or obstructing actions.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing our planet, which is on the eve of the sixth major mass extinction. If we want to take a step on this issue, we need to move from procrastination to a genuine confrontation. This necessity undoubtedly points to a radical transformation process in our global economic policies, production, and consumption patterns. Can we drastically limit our use of fossil fuels, which have a significant share in greenhouse gas emissions, before we reach the irreversible phase of climate change, known as tipping points? Will the business world be able to adapt to this transformation? And most importantly, can we rearrange our consumption habits according to this new reality that is hard to digest? Or will we prefer to perceive the relentless sun that is currently scorching the planet as a dystopian but magical, artistic object in air-conditioned areas where we turn up the air conditioners to heat the outside even more?

Tipping Points and the Need for Urgent Action

Tipping points in climate science are used to describe critical thresholds that cause large and generally irreversible changes in the climate system (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)). For example, if the average global temperatures exceed 1.5°C, which we are very close to, it is predicted that we will cross a tipping point. The collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, the death of tropical coral reefs, and the thawing of permafrost can be triggered by this warming. If the temperature increase approaches 2°C, we may cross other tipping points. In such a case, for example, the Amazon forests, known as the lungs of the world, can reach a point of drying and collapse, transitioning from being a carbon sink to a carbon source. This situation can further accelerate climate change and start an irreversible cycle. Unpredictable levels of extreme weather events, significant increases in sea level, reduction of water resources, and large declines in agricultural productivity... Scientists say that such a scenario could occur within the next few decades if urgent measures are not taken.

In order to prevent this, we need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This includes reducing fossil fuel use in energy production, transport, and industry, and transitioning to renewable energy sources. In addition, energy efficiency should be increased and energy saving should be encouraged in all areas of life from production to consumption. Of course, first and foremost, we need to protect what we have, and prevent natural resources and ecosystems from being seen as just low-cost resources for industrial activities. We must put the fight against climate change at the center of economic and social policies; we urgently need to build self-sufficient, circular, and climate-resilient lifestyles. As time runs out, this effort is becoming increasingly important to protect the future of our planet.