Warnings of ‘collective suicide’ as heat and wildfires rage worldwide

António Guterres tells governments ‘half of humanity is in danger zone’, as countries battle extreme heat

The Guardian, (abbreviated version from email newsletter), by Fiona Harvey, July 18, 2022

It’s not often that the national news agenda in the US so closely mirrors the one across the pond in England, where the Guardian is headquartered. But with scorching temperatures sweeping so much of the northern hemisphere, and similar scenes playing out in so many countries, it’s never been more evident just how borderless the climate emergency is.

In London this week, previous records were “absolutely obliterated” when temperatures shocked climate scientists by reaching 40.2C (104F). Flights were canceled after the soaring temperature “melted” a runway and fires raged across the capital in the busiest day for the fire service since the second world war. Throughout Britain, Guardian journalists endeavored to report on the debilitating heat and what it means for the future in a country where, as a number of colleagues reminded me this week, no one really has air conditioning.

As drought warnings are in place across half the EU – and wildfires blanket much of France, Spain and Portugal – more than 100 million Americans are under heat warnings. In Alaska alone, 264 fires are currently burning.

The UN secretary general said this week that humanity is facing “collective suicide” over the crisis. But as David Smith and Chris Stein report for the Guardian:

The brutal contrast between political inaction and catastrophic global heating has led some to question whether America’s institutions of government are fit for purpose. David Axelrod, a former strategist for Barack Obama, tweeted: “We are fiddling as the world burns.”

Joe Biden is expected today to announce measures to address the climate crisis, but the barriers to meaningful reform seem to be multiplying by the day. His climate agenda appears to be all but dead after Senator Joe Manchin blew up the latest efforts at congressional action. Democrats may lose their congressional majority in the midterms, dimming the potential for future legislation. And any measures face inevitable scrutiny by a supreme court that has proved hostile to climate action.

As you are likely aware from reading the Guardian, we’ve long considered the climate crisis to be the most pressing issue of our time. At Guardian US, we’ve recently hired an extreme weather correspondent, who’s currently out reporting with firefighters in California. We’re focused on solutions – for example, the race to breed a variety of wheat that can withstand the climate crisis.

And as a global organization, we never lose sight of the international picture: while many headlines this week were understandably focused on Europe and the US, it was also a good time to remind readers what’s happening elsewhere. In India earlier this year, temperatures exceeded 120F. In Mexico, more than half of the country is experiencing drought, with residents of Monterey able to access running water for only six hours a day.

A fire in Rainham, east London, on Tuesday. There were more than a dozen fires across the capital. Photograph: Tony O’Brien/Reuters

Originally published on The Guardian, July 18, 2022