I’ve Hit My Climate Tipping Point
Understanding global warming intellectually is not the same as feeling its presence in your daily life—or seeing photos of a 50-foot wall of fire.
Some of the strange weather that people around the world have experienced recently is just that: weather. Natural variations in temperature and moisture. But you can live through only so many “once in a lifetime” rainstorms or heat waves before concluding that they are not once in a lifetime after all. Something is very wrong.
What has given me hope, oddly enough, is the coronavirus pandemic. In less than two years, scientists have created multiple vaccines against a previously unknown disease, and governments have begun to distribute them worldwide. Yes, the vaccine rollout suffers from the same problems that climate policy does; the richest countries attend to their own needs first. (Constant high temperatures are especially dangerous in countries where people have to work outside and can’t afford air-conditioning to cool themselves at night. Floods are made worse by cheap, unprotected housing. Wildfires rage more fiercely where the local population lacks enough fire trucks to tackle them.) But the lesson of the coronavirus is that proximity to disaster can change minds, even among those who feel that living in a rich country can insulate them from harm.