The Long Now

Ajay Singh Chaudhary in Late Light:

On April 30, 2018, the temperature reached 122.4⁰ Fahrenheit (50.2⁰ Celsius) in Nawabshah, Pakistan, a city of 1.1 million people a mere 127 miles from Karachi, the capital city with approximately 15 million residents. Although Pakistan is a large and varied country geographically speaking, it is the fifth most populous country in the world, with just under 230 million residents. This was not only the hottest April day ever in Nawabshah; it was the hottest April day ever in recorded human history.

Many climate scientists who work on “dangerous heat”—in some ways the most straightforward social impact of global warming—talk about “wet-bulb” temperatures, a combination of heat and humidity measures. And for good reason. Wet-bulb thresholds are much lower (around 32-35⁰C) and are already being crossed all over the world. But even a “dry-bulb” threshold (around 35⁰C) without the compounding issues is “dangerous.” For a few days, maybe even a few hours, 50.2⁰C is deadly.

There is so much to think through with an example like this: from the obvious—climate change, rising temperatures, and its systemic causes—to the less-so: even with mitigation, these are millions of people who can and will move. But what I wish to focus on for the moment are the temporal aspects such blunt empirical realities pose. Horizons seem to fade, a fog descends, the past is churning geologically in the present while if there is a “future,” it is already here.

More here.