ICYMI: Earth Set a Record For the Hottest June Day This Year

Editor's note: This story is part of PolicyMic's Millennials Take On Climate Change series this week.

These last weeks of July are statistically the hottest of the North American year — and this year we’re trying to make sure they’re politically hot, too. I’ve been on the move around America for days, helping colleagues across the country who are organizing so-called Summer Heat events that link the global fight against climate change with the local, frontline battle against the abuses of the fossil fuel industry.

Take the Columbia River, for instance, where there’s a new oil port planned at Vancouver Washington, as well as coal and LNG ports all up and down the Pacific Northwest coast. These will do local damage. Eventually, oil will spill, and given the horrific oil train explosion at Quebec this month, it might be worse than that. But there’s also a huge global question at state: Will that coast turn into a faucet spewing carbon out towards Asia and the world, or will it become a chokepoint that helps keep that coal and gas and oil in the ground?

Or consider Moab, Utah. Local activists are up in arms about the plans for the first tar sands strip mine in the U.S., as well they should be. (The tar sands complex in Canada is one of the most shockingly ugly places on earth, a boreal forest now transformed into a 21st-century Mordor). But there’s more at stake here, too: The Colorado Plateau has an almost infinite quantity of carbon, and if we start digging it up now, we’ve got no chance at dealing with climate change.

This fossil fuel resistance has shown some successes already, tying up the Keystone pipeline project and slowing the pace of coal-fired power plant construction. And it will grow more powerful, I think, because it depends on no leader, no one organization. It’s building out the way we want the energy grid to build out: not a few big centralized power plants, but a million solar panels on a million rooftops, all hooked together. Our activist efforts must be just as decentralized and just as linked.

Whether we’ve started in time I can’t say. The hideous heatwave that gripped much of the country last week is a reminder of how much damage has already been done. The planet set a record for the hottest June day ever recorded this year. We’re in trouble.

But we’ll be in even more trouble if we don’t turn up the heat on the fossil fuel industry.

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Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College.

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