A heatwave in Seattle? Extreme weather is no longer ‘unprecedented’ – it has become the norm | Arwa Mahdawi
A Years ago, writer and academic Douglas Rushkoff was invited to a fancy private resort to talk to a bunch of obscene rich hedge fund guys about the future of technology. He thought they were going to ask him how technology would make the world better, but they were much more interested in discussing the “event,” their cute term for the collapse of civilization. “How do I keep authority over my security forces after the event?” Is said to have asked a CEO who had just built an underground bunker system. The rest of the conversation, detailed by Rushkoff in a Guardian feature, continued with that in mind.
This Rushkoff piece was released in 2018, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few days. Why? Because the event is beginning to be imminent. If that sounds alarmist, just take a look at the weather. Severe storms have caused extensive flooding in Detroit. Canada has just hit its highest temperature on record: a British Columbia village hit 115 ° F (46.1 ° C) on Sunday. The Pacific Northwest also broke heat records over the weekend, with Portland, Oregon, hitting 44.4 ° C (112 ° F). Not exactly known for its sunshine, Seattle had triple-digit temperatures for just three days in a row and broke another record. The US National Weather Service in Washington has described the current heat wave as “historic, dangerous, protracted and unprecedented”.
I’m not sure there is a word that has been outrageously overused lately than “unprecedented”. Every day seems to bring “unprecedented” floods, heat or forest fires. Surely it’s time to stop pretending that “precedent” means nothing – as the Oregon Climate Office tweeted in response to the Portland heatwave, “The past is not a reliable guide to the future.” Extreme weather is no longer an exception; it has become the norm. The climate crisis is not just around the corner, it is there. And things will only get worse.
Of course, you don’t need me or the Oregon Climate Office to tell you all of this. That’s the most frustrating thing about the climate crisis: Nothing that happens should come as a surprise to anyone. The climate crisis is not a big secret – it has not been for a long time. You know how serious it is; I know how serious it is; the 1% who build bunkers and worry about how to control their private militias after the environmental collapse know how serious it is; The billionaires who spend their fortunes off Earth and into space know how serious it is. As for the oil companies that helped worsen the crisis? You’ve known how serious it is for decades. With the exception of a few staunch deniers, politicians are also aware that they know how important the climate crisis is. Joe Biden has called it an “existential threat” to humanity. And Boris Johnson, the most un-serious man in the world, has urged the world to “get serious” in order to stop a climate catastrophe.
But high rhetoric isn’t enough, is it? We need action and that is nowhere near enough. In March, Biden pledged a $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan that would enable “transformational advances in our ability to fight climate change.” Since then, however, he appears to have prioritized compromising with the Republicans rather than making transformative advances. I’ve tried to be optimistic about Biden, but it looks like he won’t be the transformative figure so many people have been hoping for. We can’t fight extreme weather with hot air, but that’s all politicians seem willing to give us.
Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist