We drove cross country this summer, and it was hot as hell everywhere. Ninety-five degrees in Philadelphia and New York, 100 degrees in Utah and Arizona, 110 in Barstow, CA. When it dropped into the 80s in some places – or at night – it felt great.
At one point I checked the car’s interior temperature on the app before getting in, and it said 140 degrees. Is that even possible?
When its that baking hot out you don’t want to go out mid-day, you just try to stay in your air conditioned motel or car or wherever all day. You walk quickly between the car and any building. You lose energy almost instantly, without realizing it.
Yet we saw men working on roofs and on tractors in 100 degree heat – shirtless, without hats and literally baking. We saw people broken down by the side of the road. We saw kids and families outside trying to play and live life. Trying to ride it out.
Why am I focusing on the heat and not the smoke? We saw plenty of smoke too, from the western wildfires. After five days of driving through smoke on top of the heat (from Iowa to Utah) I literally cried when we got to the Grand Canyon and it was full of smoke.
Why? I don’t know.
We’ve gotten used to smoke, in the San Francisco Bay Area where we live.
But the heat is something different. We’re one of the few parts of the country that’s insulated from it, where temps are 20-30 degrees below everywhere else in Spring, Summer and Fall. We read about it in the headlines, but don’t live it.
And that’s dangerous, because it means that many of the most capable people on earth – who could be urgently tackling the climate crisis – are numbed to it.
We read about extreme heat, but it’s abstract.
Well, just drive cross country like we did, and it’s very real.
Also… we were lucky to be driving an electric car with a heat pump AC system which could keep us at a cool 70 degrees when it was 100 degrees out. And which could keep us cool when we we parked somewhere without having the engine running.
But mostly, the high heat leads to even more carbon emissions.
We saw plenty of trucks idling, everywhere, while they waited or unloaded or had lunch or whatever… spewing diesel fumes and carbon because it was the only way to keep their cabs (and themselves) cool.
We walked into plenty of stores and hotels keeping the AC at an unnaturally low 60 degrees because they thought it was good for business or someone had made it the policy.
If you understand the connection between fossil fuels and extreme heat you see things like this everywhere, and it’s painful. More on that some other time.