After triple whammy of heat, floods and bad air, it’s time to do more about climate change

The perfect fix for climate change doesn’t exist. Instead, action is needed on all fronts — at the individual, local, state, federal and international level — to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

SHARE After triple whammy of heat, floods and bad air, it’s time to do more about climate change
Parts of the Chicago Riverwalk near City Winery Riverwalk are underwater after sever rain storms battered Chicago causing flash flooding on Sunday.

Parts of the Chicago Riverwalk near City Winery Riverwalk are underwater after sever rain storms battered Chicago causing flash flooding on Sunday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

An old joke about times that are going downhill says: Just remember, this is the best you are going to feel.

After Chicago suffered a triple whammy last week of the worst air quality in the world, flash floods and blistering heat, we should remind ourselves things won’t get better in an era of climate change unless everyone — everyone — pitches in.

Otherwise, a week like last week is the best we are going to feel. The United Nations weather agency warns an increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions and the return of El Niño in the Pacific Ocean means hot weather is likely to get worse. And in North America, we are just starting the dog days of summer.

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After Earth suffered its hottest day on record for the third time in just four days last week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, “[C]limate change is out of control.”

The perfect fix for climate change doesn’t exist. Instead, efforts must be made on many fronts to keep greenhouse gases from escaping into the atmosphere. Though we might get respites here and there, out-of-control climate change is taking us into uncharted territory. Coral reefs are dying, floods are stronger, seas are rising and getting dramatically warmer, ice is melting, and in North America, wildfire smoke is making it hard to breathe. Pests and diseases such as malaria are moving into new areas.

Meanwhile, people in the Chicago area are cleaning up their flooded basements and hoping their lungs haven’t been damaged by smoke.

Worldwide, leaders must step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Illinois and local officials should recognize that many climate-related efforts they have made to date were for a more predictable world that isn’t going to exist in the future.

And, as this editorial board has pointed out, Illinois should adopt the Advanced Clean Trucks rule to phase out most gasoline-powered heavy duty trucks and step up its efforts to get more electricity-powered vehicles on the roads.

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Much more needs to be done, and it’s our last chance to do so. According to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, saving the planet will require significant investment and hard work.

But if people here and worldwide do manage to work together and avoid the worst effects of climate change, that will be a reason to feel, if not our best, at least better than we will otherwise.

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