To the editor:
Wow — another week of really weird weather! Unusual heat in the northwest, unusual rain in the southwest, unusual tornadoes, rain so hard the pumps in New Orleans can’t keep up, and extremes around the world that are breaking 900-year-old records. This happens more and more often. Could the increase in weird weather, which science has suggested for decades, be the manifestations of a warming world? It’s so complicated.
Think about this: Imagine walking across the kitchen with a half-inch of water in a cake pan. The water sloshes in seemingly random waves, sometimes exposing the bottom of the pan and splashing high up the sides. Now, double the depth of water and take the same walk. Sloshing is less likely to expose the bottom and more likely to reach new heights, maybe even spilling over. Waves in the pan are like the extremes of weather. The depth of the water is like the heat in our climate. They are related. We’ve always had extremes, but now there are fewer cold and more hot extremes in the range of effects.
A report published last week in the journal Science Advances said that 15 percent of India, Pakistan and other parts of South Asia are susceptible to heat waves up to 32 Celsius wet-bulb temperatures, which killed 3,500 there in 2015. In year 2100, 75 percent of South Asia could be susceptible because of human causes. When the wet-bulb temperature is 35, which hasn’t happened yet, humans perish within six hours. Millions could die in extremely poor regions of South Asia. Many millions more would flee and become refugees. Where would they go? How would that threaten world peace?
The good news is that it doesn’t have to turn out like this. It’s never too late to take action to slow and reverse the warming. There’s no limit to how bad it can get if we don’t. We have the technology and innovative spirit to make a healthier, wealthier, and safer world. Let it be so.