On the Highway to Climate Hell. The world’s infrastructure was built for a climate that no longer exists.
Countries have spent decades building critical infrastructure that is now buckling under extreme heat, wildfires, and floods. They were laying bare just how unprepared the world’s energy and transportation systems are to withstand the volatility of climate change.
These vulnerabilities have been on full display in recent weeks as record-breaking temperatures broil the world. They are straining power grids, threatening water supplies, and warping roads. The Copernicus Climate Change Service reports that July was the warmest month on record. It had scorching temperatures in Antarctica, North Africa, Europe, and South America, where winter is presently in effect. There were record-breaking high surface temperatures in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. It destroyed coral reef systems and endangered marine life; not even the world’s seas have been immune.
There is a strong possibility that areas that are not scorching are submerged. The most intense rains to hit China in 140 years flooded the country. It killed scores of people and destroyed large areas of crops. In Slovenia and Canada, surging floodwaters have battered communities and submerged villages; glacial flooding in Alaska has carried entire homes away. Cities in Spain have been flooded worse than Noah and his brood, while southern Sweden is grappling with its heaviest rains in more than 160 years.
On the Highway to Climate Hell
“It’s just an unbelievable summer,” said Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and senior fellow at the Pacific Institute. “It’s the kind of extreme weather that we climate scientists have been warning about for decades—it just now seems to be happening everywhere, all at once.”
Climate change, driven by human activity, makes extreme heat and precipitation more frequent and intense, fueling the floods, heat waves, and wildfires that have been wreaking havoc around the world. The consequence has shown how the infrastructural systems that underlie global prosperity were not built to resist this more harsh climate reality, and what investment has been made has been less than beneficial.
China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure plan has built more coal plants across Eurasia, among other things. Germany shuttered its nuclear power stations, not its coal plants. Florida actually banned state officials from investing public money in green endeavors. The Biden administration’s big clean-energy package angered allies and sparked concerns of a trade war. Meanwhile, Ford sold an F-series pickup truck every minute of last year.
“We have entire cities and transportation hubs that were all built for climates that no longer exist,” said Katharine Hayhoe, the Chief Scientist at the Nature Conservancy. “That’s why we’re seeing terrible things happen.”
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