Climate Change is doing more than altering the weather. It’s changing our society. Right now we still cheer on the athlete who can throw the longest pass or pitch the most no-hitters; and when a Russian daredevil like Valery Rozov makes the highest base jump off Mount Everest (which I would not attempt if I were being chased off the edge by a hungry tiger), his daring feat makes headlines all over the world. But the thrill we feel when we hear about records being overturned is about to come to a screeching halt.
I predict that in the future, thanks to Climate Change, “record-breaking” is going to be our least favorite word. In the past few years we have been having record-breaking droughts, record-breaking snowfall, record-breaking heat, record-breaking cold, record-breaking rain, record-breaking floods, record-breaking storms, not to mention record-breaking monster hurricanes, record-breaking tornadoes, record-breaking numbers of forest fires, and the sad and inevitable record-breaking numbers of deaths from all of the above.
In the past, if a weather record were broken, you could assume that this was because it was either a rare event or that the records didn’t go back far enough. The California city where I live only has been recording the high and low temperatures since 1884. So if a summer were unusually hot or dry, it used to be easy to imagine it might have been even hotter and drier three hundred years ago.
That was when record-breaking weather was a rare event. That was before we learned about Climate Change. When I was in Rio de Janeiro Brazil this January,there was a day when the heat index was 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The ocean was covered with green-yellow scum because the water was so warm, and sea birds were dropping out of the sky onto Copacabana Beach where people were picking them up and rushing them into the shade to cool off. At the very same moment, people living in the Midwest and on the East Coast of the United States were enduring windchill factors of 50 below Zero.
Perversely, I still find this thrilling. Wow! 122 F heat! 50 degree below zero cold ! More records have been broken! But at the same time I’m starting to shudder every time I hear a newscaster say “record-breaking.” If Climate Change progresses unimpeded, this breaking of records is not going to stop; and in the years to come, we will be looking at record-breaking loss of human life, record-breaking loss of property, record-breaking political instability, record-breaking numbers of refugees, and chaotic, unpredictable weather that goes on and on and on breaking all records.