This has been the hottest week all summer here on the coast with everybody flocking to the lakes and the sea shore. Except for today. It’s raining non-stop. Water is a good thing for everything living and growing. In the last week alone, we have over 100 forest fires ravaging the province, foremost the 5000 acre Christie Mountain fire in the Okanagan’s Similkameen district near Penticton. It grew over 2500 acres in just one afternoon.
I sat down in our usual corner and the frosty mug that Vicky served up was just what the doctor prescribed. Camp was already in place looking like a shaggy dog with his grey, curly mane and bushy eyebrows. ‘It’s the covid look,’ he said, reading my thoughts.
‘Do you have air conditioning in your store?’
‘Nope, I leave the front and back door open and had all my lights changed to leds. Makes a big difference. More light for less energy. You know we hit record temperatures here this week but the thermometer climbed to 130 degrees, which is 54 degrees Celsius, in Death Valley. And over 370 wildfires are burning in California, dozens of homes gone, half a million acres burned, thousands evacuated and forced into shelters, rolling blackouts and Trump tells them to rake more leaves and clean up the broken trees and forest floor
‘That’s a joke, right?’ I said.
‘No joke. You can’t make this stuff up,’ Camp said. ‘Talking about all that heat reminds me of a report I read about the environmental effect of cooling systems the world over. Demand for air conditioning in buildings more than tripled between 1990 and 2016, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), and electricity consumption is now just under 3.5 percent of the world’s final energy consumption, according to an estimate by the University of Birmingham in the UK, roughly the equivalent consumed in Japan and India each year. This enormous demand is expected to triple by 2050.’
‘And I guess the poorest people in the hottest countries don’t have fridges and air conditioning,’ I said.
‘Exactly. More than a billion people in poor countries are unable to protect themselves from heat, which makes cooling an existential privilege. According to this UN report, there are about 3.6 billion refrigeration plants worldwide, and ten more are put into operation every second.’
‘At least we got rid of chlorofluorocarbons which destroyed the Ozone layer,’ I said.
‘Yes, they were replaced with hydrofluorocarbons but we have driven the devil out with the Belzebub. Unlike CFCs, HFCs do not destroy the vital ozone layer, but some of these gases are a thousand times as harmful for the atmosphere as carbon dioxide,’ Camp said and then emptied his glass with a flourish.’
‘There must be solutions,’ I said.
‘Yes, many European countries already use isobutane, propane and ammonia as refrigerants and there are some synthetic replacements out there but it will take a global effort to change.’
‘All part of the ‘green deal’ that might come into effect if Biden wins in November,’ I said, finishing my beer.
‘Yes, but hope and prayers are not going to change bad habits or a fascist president and administration,’ Camp said. ‘Here is a joke: what’s bordering on stupidity? Mexico and Canada.’
Vicky was already on her way with two super cooled glasses of golden elixir. ‘Do you drink beer yourself?’ I had to ask her.
‘Beer is not my thing,’ she said. ‘I prefer carbonated tequila drinks. You know, Nude.’
‘Nude like naked,’ I said, confused.
‘No silly, Nude like the brand for pre-mixed cocktails,’ she laughed under her mask.