Summer’s Almost Here And So Is El Niño And Oh God
It’s official, El Niño has been formally declared by the Bureau of Meteorology — the first event in Australia in eight years — meaning we’re in for a very hot and dry summer. Oh, it also dramatically increases the risk of severe bushfires. Sick.
May I say, the sun this past week has been so lovely, hasn’t it? This summer heat has lifted my seasonal depression like a veil. As if lured there, I found myself by the water every chance I had to soak it all up. But as I sat at the beach in Sydney on Saturday afternoon (where it reached 34 degrees) it just occurred to me that it’s not actually summer yet. It’s the second week of spring. “Okay,” I thought, “That’s alarming.” A reminder that we have entered the “era of global boiling” smashed into my brain like the waves on the rocks. I knew if I thought about it too much my climate anxiety would stop me from enjoying the warm sunset. So I pushed it down.
On Sunday (we’re now at 33 degrees) I went for a walk. The sun felt good on my skin, slowly warming me from the outside in, defrosting my winter shell. Many I passed were wearing singlets, t-shirts, shorts, and thongs. Dogs, too hot to walk, were carried by their owners. Construction workers sat in whatever shade they could find. Runners were being hospitalised for heat exhaustion at the Sydney Marathon…
Unusual spring heat waves like these can be dangerous if we don’t adjust our behaviour because our bodies struggle to acclimatise. I wonder if these high spring temperatures will become the norm, if the 116 new fossil fuel projects of 2023 adding 4.8 billion tonnes of emissions to the atmosphere by 2030 will make things worse. Suddenly the sun was burning my skin.
It was 27 degrees when I left the office on Tuesday. I was happy the sun was still out and it was warm and… and an El Niño event had been declared.
Schools were closing down across NSW due to fire risk. Climate scientists said they’d “never seen anything” like the incoming El Niño before it was even announced. Sea surface levels are now already 1.6 degrees warmer than normal. On my way to the station, I read that the South Coast had received a catastrophic fire warning.
And summer is still two months away. “Fuck,” I thought. “I am scared.”
I know I’m not alone in this fear. I want to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather but the bad summer warning signs feel like a giant boulder slowly rolling towards me, but my feet are glued to the ground and I can’t do anything besides watch it inch closer.
It’s a boulder of our own design, of course. We’ve pushed this planet to the edge of disaster and there’s no appetite to fix it. How can we enjoy the warmer weather without fearing what’s to come?