If it seemed like June was a little hotter than usual, it’s because it was. In fact, it was hotter than it’s ever been in North America.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service reported on Wednesday that the average surface air temperature in North America last month exceeded that of any other June in recorded history, exceeding the previous record-holder, June 2012, by a quarter of a degree. Globally, June 2021 was tied with June 2018 for the fourth-hottest on record. The only years to feature a hotter June? 2016, 2019, and 2020.
In explaining the record in North America, the CCCS points to the extreme temperatures that swept the southwestern portion of the United States, before hitting the northwest and southwestern Canada. “The all-time record for daily-maximum temperature in Canada was broken three days in a row in British Columbia,” the service’s monthly report reads.
The temperature in Portland, Oregon, reached 116 degrees on June 28th, well above its previous record of 107, just one degree shy of the all-time record in Las Vegas, and hotter than it’s ever been in cities including Atlanta, Houston, and Miami. The “heat dome” that encompassed Portland and the rest of the northwestern U.S. and southwestern Canada is another acute reminder that the climate crisis is not an abstract concept society may have to contend with in the future, but an ever-present reality that is disrupting life on Earth in increasingly dramatic — and increasingly fatal — fashion.
As of Tuesday, Oregon state officials have reported 107 deaths from the heat wave, a tally that is expected to rise. Over 3,000 miles away in Miami, 36 people have been reported dead so far from a June 24th building collapse in Miami. The collapse may be related to rising sea levels and frequent flooding weakening the porous limestone on which Miami is built. “The role that rising waters and the climate crisis played may be unanswerable in a definitive way,” wrote our climate reporter Jeff Goodell. “But one truth is inescapable: 20th century cities are not built for what’s coming at them in the 21st century. And the longer it takes for us to grasp that, and to take dramatic action to fix it, the more people will die.”
If you’re looking for something a little more metaphorical to signal the grim urgency of the climate crisis, July began with the ocean literally catching on fire after a gas pipe burst in the Gulf of Mexico. The company responsible, Mexico’s state-owned Pemex, had the gall to claim that no “environmental damage” resulted from the blaze.
The Gulf of Mexico is literally on fire because a pipeline ruptured pic.twitter.com/J4ur5MNyt1
— Brian Kahn (@blkahn) July 2, 2021
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association is projecting July to be hotter than average across much of the nation. This includes the West, where AccuWeather predicts wildfires will ravage 9.5 million acres of land this year. This would be 130 percent of the five-year average, and 140 percent of the 10-year average. Not helping matters is that 90 percent of the West is currently in a drought, according to The New York Times, with conditions clocking in as “severe” or “exceptional” in close to half of the region.
As for the East Coast, in May NOAA predicted “another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.” NOAA noted at the time that it didn’t expect 2021 to reach the “historic level of storm activity seen in 2020,” when there were 30 named tropical cyclones, seven of which were billion-dollar disasters, but as we enter July it looks like experts may have underestimated the severity of this season. On July 1st, Tropical Storm Elsa became the fifth named storm to form this year. In 2020, it took until July 5th for five such storms to form. “A reminder that the Atlantic is usually not this busy so early,” tweeted hurricane scientist Eric Blake. “Even in the satellite era, a 5th storm in early July was unthinkable before 2020, and we were a few hours away from squeezing it in June 2021.”
Meanwhile, the GOP remains one of the world’s only political blocs to refuse to acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis. Republicans in Congress only signaled their support of an infrastructure package last month once it was stripped of substantial climate policy. It gets even uglier on the state level, where Florida Governor and potential 2024 presidential nominee Ron DeSantis last month signed a bill mandating the use of fossil fuels.
While some Republicans admit publicly that climate change is real, CNN on Wednesday provided a window into what’s being said behind closed doors. According to a video obtained by the network, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), who has said he’s “not a climate change denier,” told a GOP group last month that he thinks climate change is “bullshit.” Per CNN:
“I don’t know about you guys, but I think climate change is — as Lord Monckton said — bullsh*t,” the Wisconsin Republican said, without uttering the expletive but mouthing it, and referring to British conservative climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton. “By the way, it is.”
Johnson, it’s worth noting, is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which is responsible for policy related to “oceans, weather, and atmospheric activities,” as well as other issues pertinent to taking on the climate crisis.