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A lesson from the Pacific Northwest

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

An electric fan hums and rotates as a woman, drenched in sweat, waves her hand up and down, begging for relief from the overwhelming heat. A similar scene is playing out across the Pacific Northwest as record temperatures threaten stifling heat and dangerous conditions. This is not the first time the region has dealt with something like this. A few years ago, in 2021, a deadly heatwave killed hundreds of people in the Pacific Northwest, an area inexperienced with heat disasters where many lack access to air conditioning. At the time, some said that a heatwave like that was rare. Some said that it was something not to worry over. With another heatwave on the horizon, however, it begs the question, "is this the new normal?"

An electric fan

As climate change has increased unfettered, a wave of disasters, such as the heatwaves that have threatened the Northwest in recent years, has followed. This is no coincidence. The World Weather Attribution initiative recently published a study based on peer-reviewed methods concluding that these disasters were incredibly unlikely to have occurred without climate change. Not only that, these disasters have also been made worse and more deadly by climate change, which in turn has created more destruction and death around the world.

But what can we do? Do we lament our conditions and resign ourselves to suffering? Though the best solution is to fight against climate change and the main drivers of climate change—large corporations—there are a couple of things we can do now. Importantly, we need to update our infrastructure which, as of right now, is not built for our current climate crises. In regards to heatwaves, we should work to create cooler pavements, increase trees and vegetation, and increase access to air conditioning, something that many places, such as the Pacific Northwest, lack. Overall, if we do not fight against the causes of climate change, we must learn to adapt to a new world of destruction and disaster.

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