“This is not ‘the new normal,’” Thunberg wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “The climate crisis will continue to escalate and get worse as long as we stick our heads in the sand and [prioritize] profit and greed over people and planet.”
The UK reached a record 104 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday, and wildfires raged across Greece, Portugal and Spain. In southwestern France, firefighters have battled blazes for eight consecutive days. North Africa and Asia are facing skyrocketing temperatures and wildfires of their own, too.
“We are still sleepwalking towards the edge,” Thunberg wrote in her post, accompanied by a heat map of Europe from Scottish meteorologist Scott Duncan.
Millions of Americans are also suffering this week as large swaths of the country deal with scorching heat. President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he’d signed three executive orders aimed at mitigating climate change’s effects. The orders are focused on expanding wind energy and funding community resources and climate-resilient infrastructure.
Climate change, Biden said, is “literally — not figuratively — a clear and present danger.”
More than two dozen states are grappling with sweltering heat and big cities are issuing warnings for residents to stay indoors. Boston is currently under a “heat emergency,” while Philadelphia has declared a state of “heat caution” from Tuesday to Thursday.
In Oklahoma, the unprecedented temperatures caused wildfires and water line breaks, and officials urged residents to boil their water before consumption.
The “silver lining” of this latest crisis, said Jennifer Francis, a scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, is the potential to finally spur officials into action. “We don’t have much time left,” she told ABC News.
But that remains difficult as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin recently stalled climate legislation in Congress. The Sierra Club called out the West Virginia lawmaker for “derailing our country’s (and perhaps humanity’s) last, best chance to finally pass climate legislation that will give us some hope of averting the most catastrophic effects of warming.”
On social media, climate activists are calling out celebrities such as Kylie Jenner for their over-the-top lifestyle habits, arguing that these habits contribute to climate change.
“This emergency — these heat waves and future weather disasters — have come about because of a system where the richest among us … can consume on an unimaginable scale,” Noga Levy-Rapoport, a UK student climate activist, told Buzzfeed News. “The heat wave is dangerous and terrifying and should be yet another crucial wake-up call for our leaders to finally take charge on climate.”