Amid summer of fire and floods, a moment of truth for climate action

Washington Post

The panicked commuters of Zhengzhou, China, could only stand on seats and cling to poles in a desperate attempt to keep their heads above the muddy torrent this past week, as floodwaters from record-breaking rains inundated the subway system.

On the other side of the planet, in Gresham, Ore., a 61-year-old maker of handcrafted ukuleles slowly died in June as searing temperatures made an oven out of his lifelong home — one of at least 800 victims of what one scientist called “the most anomalous heat event ever observed on Earth.”

Massive floods deluged Central Europe, Nigeria, Uganda and India in recent days, killing hundreds. June’s scorching temperatures, followed by a fast-moving wildfire, erased a Canadian town. More than a million people are close to starvation amid Madagascar’s worst drought in decades. In Siberia, tens of thousands of square miles of forest are ablaze, potentially unleashing carbon stored in the frozen ground below.

…If there is any good to be gained from recent disasters, said Mohamed Adow, director of the African climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa, it is the prospect that the biggest historical contributors to climate change now have impetus to seek solutions.

“I had hoped that the suffering of those in Africa and other vulnerable places might have at least been enough of a warning sign for these polluting nations to act,” Adow wrote in an email. “But they have ignored our plight and are beginning to see the folly of trying to ignore something with planetary consequences.”

Adow said he hopes this summer of fires and floods will hasten change in the nations where change most needs to happen.

“We have such little time,” he said. “If they won’t heed the warning of our suffering, then maybe they will heed their own.”

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