It has been a rather good summer for alarmists, so far. A vicious circle of forest fires and pyro-cumulus thunderstorms have turned a usually cool British Columbia into a gigantic apocalyptic landscape, and we now know for a (sad) fact that it only takes fifteen minutes for a whole city to burn to the ground. Power cables and asphalt roads are melting in the heat, fruit and berries are getting fried in the sun before seasonal workers can pick them. Glaciers in Alaska are producing ‘ice quakes’, a new version of earthquakes, as they crumble into the sea. They say we are yet to witness the worst fire season in the history of modern California. As if COVID was not enough, we have now an additional piece of morbid statistics to follow, the death toll of the heatwave.
Meanwhile, in parts of the world less covered by Western journalists, there is plenty of alarmist material on offer too. Temperatures in the Middle East are also setting new records, well above those in the American North-West. According to scientists, in some areas of Pakistan and the Persian Gulf, they measure combinations of temperature and humidity that are literally beyond the human threshold of survivability. And the current drought in Madagascar has unleashed a famine of biblical proportions.
At this point, it must be really tempting for long-time climate activists to utter the famous “told you so”-phrase. As it happens, even some of them might have been caught by surprise, though. The effects of global warming seem to be unfolding quicker than anticipated. “I would have been willing to guess something like that in the middle of the century, in the latter part of the century,” says Nick Bond, the Washington state climatologist, to the Guardian.
For the moment, alarmism seems to have the upper hand over complacency, at least among those worst affected by the evolving crisis. Yet psychologists know that it is hardly a winning strategy, in the long run. Some of its severe side effects, like fatalism and despair, can be disastrous. But even its best-case scenario outcome, panicked action, is not necessarily what we need right now.
Surely there must be a middle way between alarmism and complacency? Ideally, the amounting evidence should lead us to this state of acute awareness that climate change adaptation, just as much as climate change mitigation, is not just an empty phrase coined by environmentalists with political ambitions. Both are important objectives that we all need to work towards with whatever means we have.
Yes, it is getting hot out there. Yet, however difficult it might be, let us try and keep our cool and act.
 “Humans’ bipedal locomotion, naked skin, and sweat glands are constituents of a sophisticated cooling system. Despite these thermoregulatory adaptations, extreme heat remains one of the most dangerous natural hazards, with tens of thousands of fatalities in the deadliest events so far this century.” The additive impacts of heat and humidity are another matter: “there exists an upper limit for survivability under sustained exposure, even with idealized conditions of perfect health, total inactivity, full shade, absence of clothing, and unlimited drinking water.” (Raymond et al, 2020)