Firefighter Nektarios Kefalas tries to extinguish a wildfire burning near the village of Asklipieio, on the island of Rhodes, Greece, July 24, 2023.
Image Credit: Reuters

The global calamity we call “climate change” was both up front and quite blunt in delivering its message to us in recent weeks, as record-breaking temperatures surged around the globe, driven by continued emissions of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, formed mainly by humans burning oil, gas and coal: The time is now for humanity to contemplate its own extinction.

If you trust the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it’s official: We are now living, wherever we happen to be located in the world, through Earth’s hottest month on record — possibly in more than 100,000 years. (The previous month also broke its own record on the heat index.) And it looks like things will get worse before they, well, get worse.

Let’s put this mess in an allegorical perspective. If we as humans live on this planet, we have to pay rent, and in this case the rent is paid in the form of us keeping the planet as green, beautiful and wondrous as the day we moved in. Should we become delinquent in our payments, then the landlord, Mother Nature, will not hesitate to stick an eviction notice on our door.

And that’s what Mother Nature appears to have done in recent weeks.

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In the Middle East, that corner of the globe we call home, the heat index in some places reached 152 degrees Fahrenheit, nearing, perhaps surpassing, levels considered the most intense the human body can tolerate. China set an all-time high of 126 degrees. Record or near record temperatures have plagued much of Europe this month and the last, with the mercury hitting above 105 degrees last week.

Parts of northern Italy were pummeled by giant hailstones larger than tennis balls just days after the country experienced a scorching heatwave that broke records. And in Greece earlier this week, wildfires raged across the popular island of Rhodes, prompting the evacuation of thousands.

Meanwhile, thunderstorms and torrential rain followed by extreme heat and wildfires raged across Southern Europe, North America and the Indian subcontinent, where in the latter extremely high temperatures have been compounded by an intense monsoon season.

If all that reads like a glimpse of calamities only expected to become more prevalent as global warming intensifies, it also reads like an eviction notice from our landlord telling us that it will not tolerate the trashing of its property — in effect, being delinquent in our payments, as it were.

These days, no one needs to be reminded of the name J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist behind the research that ultimately led to the building of the atomic bomb, for he is at the centre of the recently released and wildly popular cinematic masterpiece “Oppenheimer”, which dramatises his life and work.

In recent days, since the film arrived in theatres, movie critics have taken to discussing this famous physicist’s reaction after he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945. “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”, he declared, quoting from the Hindu Holy Text Bhagavad Gita.

Though Oppenheimer (“Oppie” to his friends) was not Hindu in the devotional sense (he was in fact Jewish) he had studied that sacred text and felt that the words fit the occasion.

I say that were Oppenheimer, who died in 1967 at age 62, alive today he would’ve pointed to global warming as the ‘destroyer of worlds’.

Look, humanity has, after all, endured and then went on to survive devastating catastrophes like, say, pandemics, world wars and atomic weapons. It survived, in the mid 1300s, the Black Death, the most fatal pandemic in history, which caused the death of close to 200 million people in Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. It survived two maniacal world wars that ended in the slaughter, in battle zones and labour camps, of some seventy million men, women and children between 1914 and 1945.

And it survived the catastrophe of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after atomic bombs were dropped on them, incinerating wide swaths of the two densely populated cities and along with them over 200,000 inhabitants.

An apocalypse is upon us

We survived all that mayhem, by the grace of God, but it is exceedingly unlikely that we will be able to survive global warming — unless our own generation comes to its senses.

The long and short of it is this: From here on forward, expect human-caused global warming to smash temperature records — accompanied by devastating wildfires, floods and drought — month after month, year after year, till the day when ... well, let’s say, when the apocalypse is upon us.

And look, Barack Obama is not my favourite former occupant of the White House but a quote from one of the speeches he once gave on the subject is. “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change”, he said. “And the last generation that can do something about it”.

Not doing something about it in our time is to leave our children with a losing battle to fight in their time, in effect allowing in this case the iniquities of the fathers to be visited upon the sons — a fate our children do not deserve.

And, yes, the ways of God to man are indeed just, rational and merciful, but God will not make good on the havoc wrought upon His servant when that havoc is wrought by the servant himself upon himself.

— Fawaz Turki is a noted academic, journalist and author based in the US. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.