El Niño Is Coming – and the World Isn’t Prepared

That’s the title of this Wired article, and it makes scary reading.

I have no doubt that climate change is a very real thing, but I have often commented that I am regularly unimpressed by the hyperbole and drama with which the news stories around it are presented.

This one seems a little different.

Current forecasts suggest that La Niña will continue into early 2023, making it – fortuitously for us – one of the longest on record (it began in Spring 2020). Then, the equatorial Pacific will begin to warm again. Whether or not it becomes hot enough for a fully fledged El Niño to develop, 2023 has a very good chance – without the cooling influence of La Niña – of being the hottest year on record.

Sure, there are predictions of hurricanes and crop failure, of food shortages and economic impacts, of power outages and ever increasing temperatures, but there’s no embellishment: just facts and indications of what we might expect.

It still doesn’t sound good.

I was less sure about climate change 15 years ago. I was put off by the constantly incorrect predictions and yes, probably swayed by peer pressure when it came to believing (or not believing) what was going on. But if I hadn’t changed my mind about climate change before 2020 (I had, but…) then Covid sealed the deal for me. Not because I believe that the latter was due to the former, but because I watched experts being experts and sharing their expert knowledge, and it being shot down because of poor reporting or just sheer bloody ignorance.

Now I know how those climatologists felt.

The worst bit about knowing that this is happening is not being able to do anything about it. Because it really doesn’t matter how much good stuff like recycling and switching off our geysers that you or I do, when (e.g.) China is building another 15GW-worth of coal-fired power stations in the first six months of 2023 and (e.g.) India is reopening more than 100 coal mines to make more electricity. While collective effort at a local level probably assisted with some degree of relief during our awful drought in Cape Town, it’s absolutely laughable to try to get consumers to behave more responsibly when it comes to climate change when Jinping and Modi are chucking out more CO2 than ever before.

We don’t even have enough electricity to go around, but we’re being told (and paid) by Europe to shut down our 18 coal-fired plants, which at full capacity (ha!) amount to about 45GW of generation capacity. Meanwhile, China is operating over 1,100 coal-fired stations for 1,110GW. And all the emissions that come with them.

Until that sort of dichotomy is rectified, (and I understand how depressing and pessimistic this sounds) it feels utterly pointless to try and “do our bit” on a personal level.