A future full of heat waves without action: Editorial

If heat is your thing, the ongoing summer swelter must be paradise. After a cool, wet start to the season, the hot weather has started in earnest this weekend, with records threatening to fall all over Connecticut and beyond.

That’s summer, though, right? Just deal with it. Sort of like how it makes no sense to complain about a snowstorm in February.

If a recent report is correct, though — and since it dovetails nicely with hundreds of other similar reports from top experts in the field, meaning there’s no real reason to question its veracity — we should expect this and much more in coming years.

Connecticut has averaged about 10 days per year with a heat index above 90 degrees, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. We could instead expect up to 40 days per year on average by 2050 if no action is taken to reduce emissions that cause global warming.

In case the year 2050 still has some weird futuristic sound to you, consider that students who start second grade this fall are projected to be in the high school graduating class of 2030. We’re not talking about something far over the horizon, we’re looking at changes that will affect people alive today, and in fact are already having a major impact.

Storms are more intense, rainfall more damaging, heat waves more deadly. Hurricanes drop 50 inches of rain on a city, mudslides drive thousands from their homes and wildfires devour entire towns — all in the present, even as we struggle to convince the nation’s political leadership to even take the issue seriously.

We hesitate at our peril. Excessive heat is more than just inconvenient; it’s deadly, especially to the most vulnerable among us. Extended heat waves put a huge strain on the electrical grid, leading to the potential for power failures when it’s most needed. Air conditioning isn’t going to save us, and can be harmful as we seek ways to limit consumption.

It’s true that Connecticut does well when it comes to fighting this emerging global catastrophe. Our leaders have recognized its seriousness, and put into effect policies that can make meaningful change for the better, at least in our small corner of the world. No one imagines Hartford alone will halt the slide to climate crisis, but doing nothing isn’t an option, either.

Still, the problem is far larger than anything we could tackle on our own, and the first step — one that it’s hard to believe at this late date still needs to be taken — is convincing Washington, D.C., that this is a problem we must all face together. No more dropping out of climate deals because they’re inconvenient, no more putting the needs of oil companies first. We must, immediately, make global climate change our top national priority.

Doing nothing ensures the worst. This unpleasant weekend is bearable because it will pass — temperatures on Monday are expected to be mild again. To ensure future heatwaves pass, too, immediate action is in dire need.