Not Ready for Global Warming

Climate Change

            Heerlen     Waking up in southeastern Netherlands, the temperature was 55 degrees Fahrenheit, almost 30 degrees cooler than the predawn when I had walked my dog in New Orleans before flying over for meetings in Heerlen.  My computer keeps New Orleans readings, so there were red splotches flashing over 100 when I got off the train, even as it was hardly 70 while riding down from Amsterdam’s giant Schiphol airport.  This is not humblebragging.  This is going to be all about the mountains to climb here and elsewhere in preparing for climate change.

In the mid-70s in the Netherlands with humidity, everyone was complaining about the heat, as if they were in New Orleans.  Stopping in the rain for a sandwich after arrival, the small shop didn’t have a fan.  Getting off the elevator after checking in the hotel, newly reopened I was told, a woman complained about how hot it was in the rooms.  Walking near the city center on the way to the hotel, a small shop had a big sign in its window heralding the fact that it was air-conditioned.  In the hotel, the windows don’t open really, except at the very top they crack about six inches.  In dealing with traditional winter temperatures, that makes sense, and it probably works for mild summers, but as the thermometer readings rise this poor hotel and its guests will have a problem.  Where location, location, location is everything, this hotel is within a shout of the historic town square and its massive church.  Restaurants and bars are all around the open square, so the music and celebrations on a Friday night go on long past midnight, along with the hourly church bells.  No worries for me after a long flight, since I was mainly unconscious, but had I not been, there would have been no way to survive by closing the windows, all of which spells trouble for this hotel’s future.

They are not alone.  The headlines from the US included many stories of school classes being canceled, early dismissals, and first aid for bus drivers hit hard by the heat in places throughout the South and Midwest.  Too many classrooms are poorly ventilated and certainly not air-conditioned, and they are not alone, since the same is true for many public buildings as well.

Global warming and climate change are here now, and this summer has been a wake up call.  We’re not ready.  My colleague and I joke about infrastructure.  He is a huge fan to what he sees as better infrastructure in Europe.  He’s partially right.  Many parts of Europe were rebuilt after World War II, including a lot of the transportation system, so it is newer than that of the US, but like systems in the US, they were build to be modern then, not now.  In that sense, heat waves recently in France and other EU countries shout out just as loudly that the climate is not waiting for us to retrofit our cities, architecture, public facilities, and housing units.  This is a global infrastructure issue, and when it comes to ready-or-not, we’re all mired in the NOT.