Image for representational purpose only. ( Express Illustration)
Image for representational purpose only. ( Express Illustration)

The fire at the end of the world

In California, heat waves killed 599 people between 2010 and 2019. In America’s hottest city, Phoenix, Arizona, there were about 200 heat-related deaths in 2020 when 53 days cooked at 43°C.

It is time to sweat the small stuff while Vilayat calls. Of the number of immigrants who heeded the call and relocated to Britain last year, most were Indians who have been granted work visas. Desi migration to Europe every year has increased threefold in the past three decades.

Over 1.6 lakh Indians gave up their passports last year, and many of them moved to the US, Canada and Australia, too. It is now obvious that we feel at home in the West. And it isn’t only chicken tikka masala and curry that make it so. It is the equality of heat.

It is very well for Vijay Mallya to party at Annabel’s and Nirav Modi to walk his dog in Oxford Street, but they are sweltering in the Big Smoke much as they would have in Arthur Road prison or Tihar jail. Unprecedented high temperatures are savaging England and Europe, driving Indian holidaymakers back home, or feeling at home in London and Nantes.

The temperatures are soaring to between 47°C and 50°C in many parts of the world. Human cells start dying between 46-60°C; irreversible damage sets in at 50°C. London broke its heat record last month with the mercury rising up to 40.2°C at Heathrow Airport. In parts of Spain and France, temperatures rose by 10°C above the average summer weather. Parts of Europe were parched by drought while Yellowstone Park in the US was flooded, thanks to massive unseasonal rains.

In California, heat waves killed 599 people between 2010 and 2019. In America’s hottest city, Phoenix, Arizona, there were about 200 heat-related deaths in 2020 when 53 days cooked at 43°C. Lytton, a small town in British Columbia, Canada, became one of the hottest places in the world, after clocking at nearly 50°C last summer. Onslow, an Australian town, experienced 50.7°C in January.

Extreme heat caused fires in British villages, and wildfires blazed through Europe, North America and Australia. More frightening was the South Pole touching 40°C above normal while the North Pole hit 30°C above normal. The old trope that the West is far ahead of India is true; comparatively, Delhi recorded only over 49°C in May while places in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh recorded their highest maximum temperatures at 46.2°C and 45.7°C, respectively. Without a doubt, this isn’t the sort of leadership the old imperialists and Anglophiles had imagined.

People, except Donald Trump, aren’t sniggering at climate change anymore. A scary new book called Hothouse Earth written by Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, predicts storms, floods, droughts and heat waves to beat current extremes in coming years. His grim warning is that climate change can’t be reversed and humans have passed the point of no return; 50°C will be the norm soon.

On June 16, 1945, Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, where the Manhattan Project was conceived, watching the fiery red ball of the world’s first nuclear explosion, quoted the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” But humans are beating God to it. The world could very well end in the ashtray of history soon.

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The New Indian Express
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