Until last month, the highest daily mean ever measured there was 25.2 degrees Celsius, or about 77.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in August of 2020. Then, on July 19th, as an epic heat wave swept across the British Isles, the mark was reset at 28.1 Celsius, or 82.6 Fahrenheit. If that hadn’t happened, topping the previous high by a full 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit would have seemed statistically impossible. The fact that it did happen is frightening—a sign of a world coming unstuck.
Last week, the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that it hopes to become “the new destination for oil investments,” and scheduled an auction of oil and gas leases in its vast rain forest, including parts of the biologically diverse Virunga National Park, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas. The government also aims to allow drilling in the nation’s extensive peatlands, which are an effective storehouse for carbon; in fact, they hold as much carbon as the entire world emits in three years.
Opening the region up to drilling wouldn’t just add fuel to the fire—it would shut off a hose that fights the flames. Still, in addition to doing whatever is possible to dissuade the D.R.C. from allowing that, it’s worth viewing the announcement as a trolling of other nations, such as this one, that continue to think they have a right to expand fossil-fuel production. Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, Congo’s longtime climate representative, has been at every big global climate meeting since 2007, so he no doubt knew exactly how much controversy he’d unleash when he told a reporter from the Times last week that his country’s priority is to generate revenue to fight poverty—“not to save the planet.”