Is the climate apocalypse upon us?

A boy swims in the Tigris River at Baghdad's Al-Adhamiyah neighbourhood to cool off amid an ongoing heatwave.

The heat is on. In recent weeks, different parts of the world have experienced extreme heat waves resulting in scores of deaths, raising a crucial question: is the climate apocalypse upon us?

There have been heatwaves before. Is this really about climate change? Experts say that the answer is a resounding yes. That's because the warming of the planet as a result of greenhouse gas emissions has made extreme weather events — like the current heatwave — more frequent, longer, and more severe.


Scientists say that the massive heat dome plaguing North America's Pacific Northwest — causing temperatures in western Canada to outpace arid Dubai — is indeed alarming, but shouldn't surprise those who have been paying attention. As early as the 1980s, a report warned that "temperature changes within several decades will become large enough to have major effects on the quality of life for mankind in many regions." Clearly, the future is now.

But climate-induced heat waves are having disparate effects on high- and low-income countries. Here are some case studies.

British Columbia (Canada) and the Pacific Northwest (US). British Columbia, home to bustling Vancouver, reported almost 500 heat-related deaths in under a week, a staggering 195 percent increase compared to what would usually occur during that period. Similarly, US cities like Portland and Seattle have also experienced record-high temperatures in recent days, leading to heat-related illnesses that have sent hundreds to hospital.

Indeed, these usually mild-temperature cities were caught off-guard by the recent heat apocalypse. (Seattle and Portland have the lowest number of air-conditioned homes in the US.) State infrastructure there is also woefully underprepared in dealing with a once-in-a-generation heatwave: power cables melted, roads caved, and people clamored for reprieve from their overheating homes.

But where many homes don't have cooling, local and state governments quickly stepped in to set up "cooling centers" for people to escape the suffocating heat. That's important in a place like New York City, also experiencing sky-high temperatures, where fewer than one half of public housing residents have air conditioning in their homes. The US states of Oregon and Washington, meanwhile, also lifted COVID restrictions limiting the number of attendees at cinemas and malls to boost access to air-conditioned facilities. Still, Canadian weather experts have warned residents to brace for worse in the days ahead.

Iraq. Iraq, already one of the hottest countries in the world, has recently been paralyzed by a deadly heat wave that's taken much of its power grid offline. Even by Iraq's scorching standards, this June has been brutally hot, recording temperatures eight degrees (celsius) higher than average for this time of year. It's also given rise to a political crisis after cash-strapped Iran cut off power supplies to Iraq, demanding Baghdad pay its dues. Cranking up of air conditioning (for those who have it) has also placed mounting pressure on the country's shabby power grid, raising fears of mass unrest (last year, power shortages across Iraq caused protests that rocked the nation).The Iraqi government, meanwhile, is powerless to help residents — and officials fear that hospitals and homes could continue to be without power as temperatures soar.

Madagascar. The island nation, home to 28 million people, has been battered by climate-induced extreme weather events in recent years. Now, scorching temperatures and lack of rainfall have produced the worst drought in four decades. This came into focus last week when the World Food Programme chief warned of "unprecedented famine of biblical proportions" in nations like Madagascar, where over 1 million people are now food-insecure. One of the world's poorest countries, Madagascar does not have the resources or infrastructure to help residents weather the upcoming "lean season" — the period between planting and harvesting, when food supplies are even scarcer. The WFP is asking international donors to cough up $6 billion in aid to help 41 million people on the edge of famine in the region.

When GZERO Media asked David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth, whether these recent events might change the calculus of wealthy states vis-a-vis climate action, he said, "we've seen many similar 'wake-up' moments in the recent past like last year's California wildfires, which burned twice as many acres as any fire season had before and turned San Francisco dark at noontime with smoke, or those in Australia which burned through 46 million acres and killed a billion animals."

"The recent ambitious net-zero pledges made by so many of the world's nations and corporations are, in part, a reflection of the awakening produced by the climate disasters of the past few years, '' he said. "If there's an additional awakening coming, I suspect it will be on the adaptation side — not what can be done to limit warming, but what must be done to allow us to live with it, particularly in the parts of the world least well-resourced to respond to climate impacts as they continue to mount."

Climate is personal. A recent study found that 37 percent of all global heat deaths can be attributed directly to climate change, and that's only a sliver of deaths related to climate-fueled disasters.

Government representatives often bicker at international summits over carbon footprint levels and emissions reduction goals. But at the end of the day, ordinary people's livelihoods — and lives — are on the line as the world gets hotter each year.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

16: Rich countries have secured 16 times more COVID vaccine supplies than developing nations that rely on the struggling COVAX facility, according to analysis by the Financial Times. COVAX is steadily losing bargaining power to buy vaccines at low prices due to the combined effects of booster shots being doled out in developed countries, as well as low-income countries deciding to buy jabs on their own.

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Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

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