Summers are hot. But the heat waves around the world this summer have broken numerous records and are setting off alarms about what may lie ahead--especially if policymakers fail to get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are a few of the numbers:

  • Los Angeles set an all-time high temperature record of 111°F on July 6.

  • Japan set a national temperature record of 106°F during a heat wave that followed deadly floods.

  • Ouargla, Algeria, may have set Africa's all-time highest temperature on July 5, with a reading of 124.3°F.

  • Quriyat, Oman, likely had the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28, when the temperature failed to drop below 109°F.

  • Heat records have also fallen in Canada, the U.K., Ireland and France.

What’s cooking? The jet stream, the river of wind high above the Northern Hemisphere, has been weaker and wavier in the past few weeks, scientists say. Instead of pushing weather systems along as it usually does, it’s allowing the patterns to stagnate.

The heat wave searing northern Europe was made more than twice as likely by climate change, according to a rapid assessment by scientists. The result is preliminary, but they say the signal of climate change is “unambiguous,” according to an article in The Guardian.

Scientists have long predicted that global warming is ramping up the number and intensity of heat waves, with events even worse than the current one set to strike every other year by the 2040s. “The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,” said Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford and part of the World Weather Attribution consortium that did the work.

"Near the Arctic, it's absolutely exceptional and unprecedented. This is a warning," said French heat wave expert Robert Vautard, who also worked on the study. "In many places, people are preparing for the past or present climate. But this summer is the future," he said.

“What has been really unusual in the Western U.S. this summer has been the sustained heat,” said Alex Hall, a UCLA climate scientist. “It really pulls water out of vegetation, and that sets up conditions for big fires.”

University of Arizona climate researcher and geographer Kevin Anchukaitis publicized several wildfire studies from the last 10 years that all show how and why global warming is making fires bigger, more destructive and longer-lasting. "Is climate change the only factor influencing wildland fire? No, of course not—but climate change is influencing area burned and fuel aridity," he wrote.

After a devastating 2017, California is facing an even tougher wildfire season this year. The state has reported 3,770 wildfires so far this year, up from 3,440 over the same period last year. The largest, the Carr Fire has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed six people. And the season has not yet reached its peak.

Anyone who’s wringing his hands about how much it would cost to speed up the transition to non-carbon energy sources should think about the tab that the heat waves and wildfires are running up. In England, as in almost all of Europe, growing patterns are changing. The drought has increased food prices, and staples may be in short supply this fall. In July, farmers had to fly in lettuce from overseas to meet contracts with supermarkets. One cargo firm said it flew in 30,000 heads of lettuce from Los Angeles during one hot July weekend alone. The drought in Ireland means that income for dairy farmers is likely to be cut in half this year, said Teagasc, the state’s farming advisory body.

Congress, over the past year, has passed a series of bills providing well over $100 billion in response to hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and other natural disasters, The Hill reported August 3.

The financial toll also includes health costs. A recent analysis of climate trends in several of South Asia’s biggest cities found that if current warming trends continued, by the end of the century, wet bulb temperatures — a measure of heat and humidity that can indicate the point when the body can no longer cool itself — would be so high that people directly exposed for six hours or more would not survive.

“These cities are going to become unlivable unless urban governments put in systems of dealing with this phenomenon and make people aware,” said Sujata Saunik, who served as a senior official in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and is now a fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health. “It’s a major public health challenge.”

Excessive heat can lead to brain and kidney damage and cardiovascular stress, especially for those over 64. By the year 2099, even with economic growth and adaptation, 1.5 million more people will die each year around the world because of increased heat. By comparison, 1.25 million people died in 2013 in all traffic accidents world-wide. These findings came from an exhaustive new study by the Climate Impact Lab, a think tank based at the University of Chicago, and cited by Wall Street Journal columnist Greg Ip.

.More surprising, he wrote, is that temperate places fare worse, because they aren’t used to heat: In Seattle, a hot day is seven times deadlier than in Houston because fewer homes have air conditioning and people spend more time outdoors.

This summer’s heat waves and wildfires make it clearer than ever that the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases needs to take strong action. Most economists say the fastest, more efficient, and most effective step the United States can take is to adopt a national carbon fee. Tell those who represent you on Capitol Hill that you want them to support this commonsense approach.



Trouble’s brewing from the coffee farm to the local Starbucks, and it’s time for everyone who cares about this worldwide staple to wake up and smell the…

….impact of climate change.

“As temperatures rise and droughts intensify, good coffee will become increasingly difficult to grow and expensive to buy,” wrote Time magazine’s Justin Worland. “Since governments are reacting slowly to the problem, companies like Starbucks have stepped in to save themselves, reaching to the bottom of their supply chains to ensure reliable access to their product.”

The seriousness of the threat that climate change poses to the coffee industry is clear from a growing number of studies. They make the case that rising temperatures will bring drought, increase the range of diseases, and kill large swaths of the insects that pollinate coffee plants. Citing a recent study in the journal Climatic Change, Worland reported that about half of the land used to produce high-quality coffee could be unproductive by 2050. Another paper, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that that number could be as high as 88 percent in Latin America.

Most major American retailers, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, sell Arabica coffee. It grows in a narrow region of the tropics known as the Coffee Belt, which stretches from Central America to sub-Saharan Africa to Asia. “Conditions must be just right or a harvest is lost,” Worland wrote.

“In the past, some areas occasionally experienced off years because of a bad storm or a temperature fluctuation. Researchers say that in the future such challenges will be constant. Farmers in some regions will be able to adapt by growing at higher elevations, but in others there is nowhere else to go. Entire regions risk becoming unable to continue producing Arabica coffee, and (Starbucks founder Howard) Schultz and others say there’s no way to make the more resilient Robusta variety, which is sometimes blended with Arabica to make instant coffee, palatable to the broad coffee-drinking public.”

"There is a whole lot more at stake here than: Is my nice espresso in New York going to get more expensive?” said Taylor Ricketts, the director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment, in an NPR interview. “Climate change is going to threaten this primary livelihood for millions of people in vulnerable communities all over the world."

What then? Lauren Markham, a writer who focuses on issues involving forced migration, visited Jumaytepeque, a Guatemalan town in Central America’s dry corridor. “A group of farmers took me to see their coffee crops. Coffee was responsible for the majority of the community’s income but had been decimated by a plague known as coffee rust, or la roya,” she wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “Plagues like these aren’t necessarily caused by climate change, but it exacerbates them, and roya is now infecting plants at higher elevations as those heights become warmer. Making matters worse, stress from the drought has made these plants more vulnerable to the plague.”

Worland’s story in Time reported that stem rust cut coffee production in Central America by about 15 percent in the 2012–13 growing year, and that, due in large part to rust, the price of a pound of coffee for U.S. consumers climbed 33 percent between 2011 and 2013.

“We can’t make a living purely off coffee anymore,” one young farmer told Markham, pointing to the limp, yellow roya-pocked leaves on his land. Young people like him, he told her, either move to the cities and try to make a go of it amid the gang violence, “or they go north,” he said, to the United States.

In other words, our failure to tackle climate change affects much more than the price of your morning cup. The most promising remedy? Economists recommend putting a price on the carbon that is driving the rapid change in our climate. Congress needs to wake up and enact a carbon fee.


Thirty years ago today (June 23, 1988), as Washingtonians sweltered, James Hansen told a Senate committee that “the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now.” Hansen was the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and his warning landed at the top of the next morning’s New York Times.

Hansen, and many others, might have thought that over the next three decades we would spring into action to protect the only planet we have. In fact, we have made scant progress. The threat has accelerated, and we have failed to muster the political will to counter it.

But could we be on the verge of a breakthrough? The number-one priority is persuading Republicans on Capitol Hill that action is needed and that they can support such action without losing their jobs. This week former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Republican from Pascagoula, Mississippi, and John Breaux, a former Democratic senator from Louisiana, announced that they had created a new group called Americans for Carbon Dividends (AFCD).

As The Wall Street Journal reported, the group plans to put financial, advertising and lobbying muscle behind a policy proposed last year that called for taxing carbon emissions and returning the revenue as a dividend to Americans. Championing that idea were Republican stalwarts George Shultz, James Baker, Henry Paulsen, and others. AFCD’s high-profile supporters include Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke, both of whom chaired the Federal Reserve.

“The tide is turning on the realization that something needs to be done in this area,” said Lott. “And the dividend changes everything. The money goes back to the people instead of into the dark, deep hole of the federal government.”

As he and Breaux put it in an op-ed titled “Here’s How to Break the Impasse on Climate” in The New York Times, “We can do this…. This is the only realistic, workable path now open to us if we want to solve one of the most daunting challenges of our time.”

The Journal’s Bradley Olson and Timothy Puko wrote, “There are signs that some in the Republican Party may be warming to some sort of climate legislation. A Climate Solutions Caucus in the House has drawn 39 Republican members since its creation two years ago. An array of U.S. corporations, many of which give to Republicans through affiliated PACs, urged President Trump not to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, which he did last year.

“What’s more, younger Republicans are supportive of addressing climate change, according to the Pew Research Center. ‘Young Republicans want action on climate change, and the party has to bring solutions to the table,’ said Kiera O’Brien, 20, president of Harvard University’s Republican club, one of a number of right-leaning university groups that have come out in favor of the ‘carbon dividends’ plan.”

Meantime, there is growing interest in carbon pricing at the state level, with more than one-fifth of U.S. states considering bills on carbon fees and dividends in the last year, Kevin Kennedy and Christina DeConcini noted in a blog on the World Resource Institute’s website. The Massachusetts Senate passed a carbon-pricing bill June 14.

Even in Texas, a state famous for its oil and gas, there are hopeful signs. The City Council in Denton, located 40 miles north of Dallas and home to 300 natural gas wells, voted, 6-1, to obtain ALL of its power from renewable energy by 2020. The Council concluded that it was simply smart economics. Most people probably would be surprised to learn that 18 percent of the energy generated in Texas last year came from wind and solar power.

So yes, the climate change challenge is daunting, but momentum for enactment of a carbon fee is building. The American people need to tell Congress to climb on board.



Are you planning to fly anywhere this summer?

If you are, let’s hope that you aren’t doing so during a heat wave. You may recall that on June 19, 2017, nearly 50 flights scheduled from Phoenix were scrubbed when the mercury reached 119 degrees. This mostly affected Bombardier regional jets, which aren’t certified to fly in temperatures above 118. Larger Boeing and Airbus aircraft were able to take off normally during that heat wave.

The extreme summer heat in Las Vegas prompted one airline to suspend service for the season and another to adjust its departure schedule and caused an undetermined number of delays and cancellations at McCarran International Airport, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Aviation challenges are among the problems that few people realized might result from climate change. The aviation industry is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change because it doesn’t take much of a disturbance in the weather to cause delays and rerouted flights. “The airplanes are operating on tight schedules, and if they get behind, it can mess up the whole network,” said Ethan Coffel, lead author of a study by a team from Columbia University and Logistics Management Institute.


This administration may not take climate change seriously, but over at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis and most other top officials believe that scientists know what they’re talking about.

The U.S. Navy has seen climate change’s impact on its facilities at places such as Naval Station Norfolk, where pier inundation now happens at least monthly, impeding training and maintenance schedules and thus fleet readiness. Sea levels there are rising one inch every six years—more than double the average global rate.

According to the Department of Defense’s Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, climate change will affect the military’s built and natural infrastructure and its acquisition and supply chain in dramatic ways, as Forest L. Reinhardt & Michael W. Toffel explained in Harvard Business Review. We can expect flash flooding and mudslides in Hawaii, home to the Pacific Fleet, and intensified droughts in California, where the Navy has more than $40 billion in assets. In Alaska, the Navy is being forced to rebuild and relocate roads, buildings, and airfields as the permafrost melts, and it might eventually have to relocate some of its bases. International bases are also likely to be severely affected by storm surges and higher sea levels.