As an extreme heat wave, which began over the weekend and is projected to end Wednesday night, swept over Berkeley, attention has been brought toward climate change and future natural disasters.
“Heat waves have always happened, but global warming is making them worse and our continued reliance on fossil fuels puts us on track to make them much, much worse,” said David Romps, campus professor of climate physics in the department of earth and planetary science in an email.
In a statement released in light of the heat wave, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said dependence on fossil fuels must end in order to mitigate heat waves from increasing in severity in the near future.
The temporary energy conservation emergency proclamation issued by the California state government will allow power plants to generate additional energy, permit the usage of backup generators and provide the ability for ships in California ports to reduce their consumption of electricity, the statement added.
“Campus’s methane gas plant, located between the eucalyptus grove and the RSF, will be pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rapid clip today — worsening global warming — all in an attempt to provide electricity for the air conditioners that are struggling to keep buildings cool in the face of the extreme heat,” Romps said in the email.
Heat waves can be detrimental to human health, according to Yi-Chuan Lu, an earth and planetary science doctoral student. In order to maintain a level temperature, the human body increases the skin blood flow, which causes face blushing and, in extreme cases, imposes high demands on the cardiovascular system — sometimes leading to heart failure. Elevated body temperatures can also lead to damaging of bodily tissues or organs, Lu added.
In order to stay safe during a heat wave, drinking plenty of water, seeking air conditioned facilities or using a fan can help, Romps said. If you start to feel sick from the heat, Romps added, take a long, cool shower to lower your body temperature.
“We will make future heat waves just a little bit worse in our attempt to get through this current heat wave and we will continue to make future heat waves hotter and hotter until we finally stop burning fossil fuels,” Romps added.
The approaching fire season and extreme warmth of the past few days has prompted a look into the direct link between heat and fire, Romps said.
Vegetation is likely vulnerable to dry out with these scorching temperatures, making it easier for wildfires to spark, he added.
“The warming we cause lasts for thousands of years and as bad as this heat wave is, humans can cause ten times as much global heating if we continue to burn fossil fuels like we are,” Romps noted.