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A summer of climate upheaval propels the world to autumn action

“The populous and the powerful was a lump,  Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—  A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.  The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,  And nothing stirred within their silent depths…” – from ”Darkness” by Lord Byron The English poet Lord Byron wrote the poem “Darkness” in 1816 to describe the horrors of not having sunlight and adequate atmospheric heat to grow crops after the eruption of Mount Tambora in present-day Indonesia the previous spring. The year 1816 is known as the “the year without a summer” because the dust in the sky blotted out the sun and caused temperatures to plummet. There was widespread famine in eastern Canada as a result of crop failure, as elsewhere in the world.  Clearly a stable climate matters if life is to flourish, and although 2022 has had quite a different sort of summer than 1816, its own set of catastrophic events rival what happened across the world in 1816. Unlike the natural event brought on with the eruption of Mount Tambora, our global woes are intrinsically linked to the fossil-fuel-addicted industrial countries, whose governments refuse to rein in oil and gas profits and stand up for young people’s right to a future. (Just twenty of the biggest oil and gas producers are projected to spend $932 billion by the end of 2030 on developing new oil and gas fields if they have their way.) Remember that global temperature is now 1.2°C higher than it was in 1816. This summer’s multi-disasters have brought into stark relief what chaos awaits us if we disregard broadly accepted scientific reports predicting what confronts us with an increase of 2–3°C. Exceeding even 1.5°C of global heating could trigger multiple climate tipping points, warns Johan Rockström, joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Climate tipping points such as sudden enormous water releases from Greenland’s ice sheet would engender a global emergency and are openly researched and debated. Many scientists believe that a 1.8°C rise is the most optimistic chance we have. After this summer, when 1.2°C has caused such mayhem, what global hell awaits the living at 1.8°C? If this summer hasn’t made abundantly obvious and with added urgency the imperative for industrialized countries to shut down the oil and gas schemes for energy reliance, civil disobedience will scream its way to the halls of power. We do this to ourselves. The poet John Donne, born in 1572, expresses this self-afflicting tendency of humans well: ”Nothing but man of all envenom’d things doth work upon itselfe, with inborne stings.”  What started with drought has moved to unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, putting a third of the country under water and displacing 32 million people. Two-thirds of Europe is suffering drought, and major rivers are becoming unnavigable for commercial craft. France relies on its rivers to cool its nuclear reactors, which produce most of its electricity, but those rivers are experiencing drastically diminished water flow. China’s summer of unprecedented heat waves has caused rivers there

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