Opinion: Blistering summers are the future NPR's Scott Simon takes a look at the world's temperature maps, and asks what summer will mean to future generations.

Opinion: Blistering summers are the future

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1113142529/1113166828" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Will our children grow up being scared of summer? This week, I watched an international newscast and saw what looked like most of the planet - the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia - painted in bright, blazing orange and reds like the burning bush. Fahrenheit temperatures in three-digit numbers seemed to blaze all over the world map. Heat records have burst around the globe. This very weekend, crops are burning, roads are buckling, and seas are rising. Our lakes and reservoirs recede or even disappear. Ice sheets melt in rising heat, and wildfires blitzed forests. People are dying in the sonorous heat. Lives of all kinds are threatened in cities, fields, seas, deserts, jungles and tundra. Wildlife, farm animals, insects and human beings are in distress.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization says there is more lethal heat in our future because of climate change caused by our species on this planet. Even with advances in wind, solar and other alternative energy sources and international pledges and accords, the world still derives about 80% of its energy from fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, which release the carbon dioxide that's warmed the climate to the current temperatures of this scalding summer.

The WMO's chief Petteri Taalas said this week, in the future, these kinds of heat waves are going to be normal. Most alarming word in his forecast might be normal. I'm of a generation that thought of summer as a sunny time for children. Think of long days spent outdoors without worry - playing games or just meandering. John Updike wrote in his poem "June," the sun is rich and gladly pays in golden hours, silver days and long green weeks that never end. School's out. The time is ours to spend. There's Little League, hopscotch, the creek and, after supper, hide and seek. The livelong light is like a dream.

But now, that bright, livelong light of which Updike wrote might look menacing in a summer like this. In blistering weeks such as we see this year and may for years to come, you wonder if our failures to care for the planet given to us will make our children look forward to summer or dread another season of heat.

(SOUNDBITE OF HERMANOS GUTIERREZ'S "HIJOS DEL SOL")

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.