THE parched savanna of our back garden isn’t worth mentioning in the same breath as wildfires raging in Sweden and Greece, but you can’t help worrying that it’s all part of the same disturbing picture.
Sweden has called on international help to tackle more than 40 fires from Lapland in the far north to the island of Gotland in the south. Fires raging above the Arctic Circle seem to be saying something about our climate, even if the geographically illiterate thought – isn’t Sweden meant to be cold? – is hardly helpful.
We all know that Greece is a hot country, a more likely tinderbox than Sweden. Yet the fires in Greece this year are shocking, with reports this morning suggesting that at least 50 people may have died in the Attica region around Athens.
These are said to be the worst wildfires in Greece in more than a decade, while Sweden hasn’t seen fires so fierce and difficult to put out in 12 years.
According to a report on the BBC website, 26 bodies were found in the yard of a villa in the seaside village of Mati, where the fires around Athens.
Much of Europe is sweltering and unendingly dry. Crops are frazzling in the fields. Is this just an unusually resilient heatwave or are we all, to call on the technical phrase, buggered?
Those who deny that climate change exists often use an unusually cold spell as an excuse to trumpet idiocies about global warming, along the lines of: “Thought you said this place was hotting up. Feels pretty damn cold to me…”
Chief among such disclaimers is Donald Trump, who during a cold spell in the US in December last year pined for some “good old global warming”.
This is the same turnip-head who previously dismissed global warming as a hoax got up by the Chinese to destroy American jobs.
You have to admit that whether his thoughts blow hot or cold, the world has become a more unsettling place since we were all admitted to the inside of Donald Trump’s head, as alarmingly transmitted by Twitter rants in capital letters and the occasional narcissistic hug of an interview with Piers Morgan.
Anyway, this weather.
Usually I love hot weather but now I’m not so sure. The heat is just too unrelenting. This morning it is cool for now, but the temperature will be going up later and all this week, with the Met Office issuing hot weather warnings that run at least until Friday.
Those cautions ignite a few headlines this morning of the kind that cash in on the alarm, while also having a ‘nanny state’ grumble. “HAZARD WARMING” is the Sun’s take on this, with a typographical footnote adding: “Brits warned to stay indoors” and “But ‘nanny state’ blasted”.
The Mail sticks, unsurprisingly, to the nanny state line, proclaiming: “TOURISM CHIEFS’ FURY AT SUMMER KILLJOYS”, while the Express has: “Stay out of the sun until Friday.”
That Mail headline reminds us, should we need reminding, just how much fury there is in that newspaper. Hot fury, cold fury and any sort of fury in between.
Perhaps we just never like the weather we’ve got. When it’s rainy and miserable, and everywhere looks green and pleasant, we pine for hot weather. And when the heat comes we want it cold and damp again, you know, proper English weather and none of this imported foreign stuff.
Despairing of the heat seems to me a betrayal of the tanned young man who used to lounge on beaches, turning ridiculously deep hues of brown. I used to love lying around in the sun. Now I just sit in the sun for 15 minutes or so, armed with the Factor 50, and then retreat to the shade. My face and arms still brown easily, as do the uncovered stretches of my head.
But the sad truth is that the young man who browned from top to toe now worries about what’s happening to the planet. But I do still like to sit in the sunshine for a (protected) while.
As for the words we use to describe all this, perhaps ‘Climate instability’ may be a more useful way of putting it.