This Will Be the Coolest Summer of the Rest of Your Life

I first came across this meme while being slow roasted in my AC-free house during the really long heat wave in July—one of those where even nighttime is oppressively hot.* In the version I saw, the quote went like this: “Note that this is likely one of the coolest summers you’ll experience in your lifetime.”

I then started to share it myself, accidentally butchering it several times before starting to use this version:

“This will be the coolest summer of the rest of your life.”

Yes, everything’s melting, but if you stay present, you can still enjoy the ride. (Image by Sharon Tay via Unsplash)

That’s the version I like most as it gets to several key messages. First, because of climate change, average annual temperatures will go up for decades—no matter how good we do in reducing economic growth, painting roofs white, curbing population growth, insulating our homes, and blanketing the ocean with wind turbines. Indeed, if we are very successful with the transition, we may even get hotter summers for a while due to falling particulate levels. And while there will be a cool summer here and there, on average, summers are getting hot, hot, hotter. In fact, James Lovelock, who returned to Gaia recently, noted in an interview in 2014 that by 2050 the shockingly hot summer that hit Europe in 2003, killing 20,000 people, “will be the norm.” So in other words, this is probably the coolest summer you’ll experience for the rest of your life.**

Of course, even cool is too strong a word—and I certainly wouldn’t want to use coldest, yet that too is accurate (though conveying a temperature range that certainly won’t be in the forecast). But coolest has a second connotation. Cool as in fun, enjoyable, etc. This most likely will be the coolest summer you’ll experience in the rest of your life. Why? Because climate change is making things increasingly unstable—ecosystems, political systems, economic systems—so the odds are high that these will unravel, perhaps not fully, but each year things might get just a bit harder. Money may be worth less and that vacation to a tropical island may be off the table (either because of expense, flight limits, or even because that island is no longer). Energy prices may skyrocket, gas lines may form, and that drive to Cape Cod will have to wait until next summer. Brown outs may occur due to increasing peak power demands and that air conditioning we’ve come to rely on may suddenly become unavailable. In other words, summers most likely will become less and less cool each year.

That’s probably true even in the case these systems unravel more slowly than I fear. I’m of an age now that any summer might be my last summer. Yes, only 45, but my dad died at 57 and I’ve known others who have died younger. Bodies decline, accidents happen, and in the USA so do mass shootings. So to understand that this summer may be your last—and thus the coolest summer of the rest of your life—is a very valuable reminder, no matter the current reading on the thermometer.

This comic makes this lesson as clear as can be, although the meme might not age very well! (Comic by Jon Schroth and Erik Assadourian)


*It’s been four summers since I’d lived through that (an annual occurrence in DC) so I had forgotten the coping mechanisms—wetting oneself down, especially before bed, helps a lot! And yes, I’m now writing this as a second heat wave wracks the Northeast.

**Important note: due to natural variability, there may be some ups and downs year to year, but the overall trend is up, up, up. And as Lovelock notes, humans will be able to adapt to this growing heat to some degree, hiding indoors, in homes or public cooling centers, but our plant and animal brethren will not be so lucky. They’ll experience even less cool summers than we.

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