The Hottest Day in History Reminds Us Despair Is Not An Option

Photo by David Law on Unsplash

It’s hot.

Like, really hot.

Yes, it’s July, and you probably know at least one person who says something like, “Well, it’s July. What do you expect?”

It’s that kind of person who probably isn’t going to be reading this much longer.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably the type of person who understands this heat isn’t normal, even for July.

You’re probably the type of person who takes seriously scientists’ warnings about the planet getting hotter.

Annual record-breaking heat indices concern you.

If you’re that type of person, read on.

If you’re not, you can click off now.


Still here?

Okay, here’s the bad news.

Fourth of July is usually a celebration.

There was nothing to celebrate about this one being the hottest day in recorded history, though.

That’s right —the hottest day in recorded history — breaking records each subsequent day.

The last hottest day was back in 2016, but climate experts predict it won’t take another seven years to break another record.

The next hottest day in history could be before this year ends, not unlikely since it is already the hottest in thousands of years. Most climate scientists are predicting it will be one of the warmest years in geologic history. co-founder and founder Third Act, Bill McKibben, recently stated in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

The next 18 months are going to be a time of chaos and havoc as we go to temperatures that no human has ever seen, no society and no infrastructure has ever endured. We don’t know precisely what will happen, but we can predict that it’s going to be very, very hard. And we can predict, really, too, I think, that this is the last of these moments we’re going to have when the world is summoned to action by events and when there’s still time to make at least some difference in the question of how hot it ultimately gets.

Last year, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres darkly pronounced “I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this… atlas of human suffering” after reading an International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warning of “widespread and pervasive” impacts on all living things from frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods.

The year before that, the IPCC released a report warning Earth faces uncontrollable global warming unless nations take drastic measures to eliminate greenhouse gases, “unequivocally” blaming humans for the crisis.

It concludes that, based on carbon emissions presently in the atmosphere, average global temperatures will likely rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius — 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit — above pre-industrial levels by 2040.

Earlier this year, the IPCC released a “final warning” — the last in a synthesis of six reports — stating either we take drastic action now or it will be too late.

António Guterres responded:

This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.

One might be justified in descending into depression, assuming the end is near, and we’re doomed.

Despite its dire tone, though, scientists who authored the report have a positive message.

IPCC chair Hoesung Lee encouraged:

This synthesis report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a livable sustainable future for all.

The Guardian reported:

Temperatures are now about 1.1C above pre-industrial levels, the IPCC found. If greenhouse gas emissions can be made to peak as soon as possible, and are reduced rapidly in the following years, it may still be possible to avoid the worst ravages that would follow a 1.5C rise.

Bill McKibben explained:

We can’t stop global warming at this point. All we can do is try to stop it short of the place where it cuts civilizations off at the knees.

Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders penned an op-ed in The Guardian Friday in which he said:

Instead of denying this obvious reality, instead of doing the bidding of oil and coal companies, instead of fomenting a new cold war with China, members of Congress must develop an unprecedented sense of urgency about this global crisis. We must bring the world together NOW to address this existential threat. Failure to act will doom future generations to a very uncertain future. For the sake of our common humanity we cannot allow that to happen.

While it’s true every person in the United States — man, woman, and child — contributes about $2,000 a year in fossil fuel subsidies, and while some Democratic politicians — and 100% of republican ones — are sponsoring legislation written to prop up fossil fuels interests, the tide is turning.

We are seeing the difference the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill the Senate passed in 2021 that includes $7.5 billion each for electric vehicle charging stations and zero- and low-emission ferries and buses, including school buses, is starting to make in our communities.

$73 billion is going toward power grid infrastructure.

$46 billion is being put toward flood, drought, and wildfire damage.

Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) builds on that progress.

It invests about $385 billion in energy and climate change incentives that include tax credits for solar and wind energy equipment production and electric vehicle purchases.

It provides incentives to manufacture new car batteries domestically, and invests hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits for clean energy like solar and wind, clean transportation, and de-carbonized buildings.

The new methane Emissions Reduction Program improves methane monitoring, funds environmental restoration, helps communities reduce pollution’s health effects, and increases climate resilience.

Urban parks and resilience for tribal communities are seeing significant funding, including $60 billion in new resources for environmental justice communities’ legacy pollution clean-up efforts, and rural communities will be able to take advantage of lower cost and cleaner energy sources.

The greenhouse gas reduction fund provides low-cost financing for clean energy projects, with at least 60% of the benefits of these investments flowing to disadvantaged communities.

For consumers, this means additional tax credits that encourage purchases of energy efficient homes, vehicles, and appliances, reducing energy costs and utility bills.

We’ve seen over the past few years how absent American example and leadership causes other countries to shrug off their environmental commitments.

Since his first day in office, President Biden has been working to either reverse or review “ the former guy’s” all-out assault on the environment, including establishing the most progressive climate policy in history, demanding the federal government pause and review oil and gas drilling on federal land, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, and electrifying the government’s vehicle fleet.

Of course, there is a problem we did not have the past two years— a republican House majority.

100% of the republican party is the fossil fuel industry’s pocket.

There is also one aberration in the Democratic party, W. Va. Senator Joe Manchin, who raked in more than $400 thousand from the fossil fuel lobby. Up for re-election next year, much of his millions in campaign contributions came from executives and political action committees of ConocoPhillips, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and EQT Corp.

Consider also the fact that over 1,500 lobbyists working on behalf of the fossil fuel industry have embedded themselves within city governments, universities, tech companies, and, yes, even environmental groups fighting those same lobbyists’ efforts.

Clearly, there is a lot to cause us to want to throw up our hands and walk away feeling defeated.

But despair is not an option.

While the climate crisis is urgent and not something to be explained away or dismissed, pessimism about the future is not going to provide us the impetus to confront it rationally.

We aren’t going to preserve a better life for our children, grandchildren, and on if we continue on our present course.

Elections have consequences. They matter.

As we are seeing with President Biden and Democrats all over the country, there has been progress, and there will continue to be if we continue to be relentless in our urgency.

If we don’t lead, other countries will tap out, and major powers, like China — the fastest producer of solar panels — will step in to fill the vacuum.

Tell that to the people who stopped reading and walk around in “America First” t-shirts.

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.