A destroyed community in Lahaina, Hawaii

Hano Ganer and Taylor Ganer look through the ashes of their family's home in the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 11, 2023.

(Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Summer Is Now Synonymous With Suffering

Let’s follow the science and do what is advised to address climate change.

I live near Washington, D.C., and work outside Boston, which provides two perspectives on summer. July was brutally hot in the nation’s capital. And new reports from Boston show a dwindling winter effect from climate change with a loss of annual snow.

Now we are in the dog days of summer. (This reference to hot, sultry, sizzling July and August days is a nod to the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky—Sirius. It’s in the constellation of Canis Major.)

With school supply sales just around the corner, we are forced to confront the question: Will summers ever be the same?

Thanks to climate change, summers may become longer than we remember. Scientists predict that by 2100 summer could last nearly half the year, with winter being less than two months long. That changes the notion of four seasons and could have enormous consequences for everything from school planning to agriculture and food.

Summers may also be drier than we remember, causing fears of future droughts that affect food supply chains. Climate models project that overall summer precipitation in large parts of the United States will fall.

But even without steady rain, these same models predict sporadic flooding because of how climate change affects dry, compacted soil that can no longer absorb rainfall. That leads to a greater number of heavy storm events. Certain crops will become vulnerable to disease.

Summers may be more humid than we remember. Changes to humidity and average temperature patterns are redistributing the energy that drives summer weather, meaning we can expect more hurricanes, thunderstorms, and hail. We are told to also expect more heat waves and air pollution (although fewer cyclones).

Rising temperatures put a strain on healthcare systems that must deal with heat-related illnesses and emergencies. In Arizona this summer, people showed up to emergency rooms with burns from hot sidewalks.

Hot weather means more air conditioning and strain on America’s aging electric grids.

Even travel, trade, and tourism can be affected by the longer summers and shorter winters.

Going to the beach could become dangerous due to red tide, in which algae blooms produce toxins. From Cape Cod to Florida, swimmers are being told to stay out of the water.

Las Vegas has seen a decline in tourism this summer, and summer camps reported lost revenue and added expense from air-conditioning. In Portland, Ore., a camp set up shop in a former department store. In Nevada, campfires were taken off the activity list, and campers found themselves inside more often.

Trips to Europe for a respite from the heat did not work out well. Wildfires made for a hot, unhealthy summer in Greece. Major tourist spots closed, and others were barely able to handle travelers during the heat wave.

Canada is experiencing its worst fire season on record. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, 4,774 fires have swept across the country so far this year, with a cumulative burned area of more than 121,000 square kilometers.

That figure has surpassed the land area of South Korea and is 7.5 times larger than the cumulative area affected by forest fires in China from 2000 to 2021. It is a vicious cycle because the forest fires emit carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, which then worsen climate change, with the smoke wafting its way to America.

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it,” said noted author Russell Baker.

Summer should not be synonymous with suffering. We have it within our control to confront climate change. Let’s follow the science and do what is advised to address climate change so that summers will return to the ones we so fondly remember.

© 2023 The Hill