Extreme Weather, climate impacts, and the World Series

Late October brings the annual celebration of the pinnacle of baseball competition: The World Series. But a temperature of more than 100 degrees F for Game 1 in the host city of Los Angeles—more than 25 degrees higher than the average temperature for this time of year—is a sign that it’s time to get serious about addressing climate change.

As the mercury soared to 102 in downtown LA and 105 at Long Beach Airport, breaking records set in 1965, the National Weather Service issued red flag warnings and fire weather watches across Southern California, with the extreme heat creating dangerous conditions. The cause of this week’s heat wave is a local meteorological event called the Santa Ana winds, but it is made more dangerous by a years-long drought which was influenced by climate change.

This comes on the heels of the deadliest wildfires in the state’s history that killed more than 40 people, burned thousands of acres, destroyed thousands of homes, and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people. Damage costs from the wildfires are estimated at more than $1 billion, and officials expect it to rise, adding to the very costly list of billion-dollar disasters the U.S. has experienced this year.

This isn’t even the first case of extreme weather affecting the World Series contenders this season. Back in August, Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston, home of the American League champion Astros, killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of homes. The flooding was so severe around the Astros’ home ballpark that they had to move a series against the Texas Rangers to Tampa Bay. Proceeds from the series were donated to hurricane relief efforts.

Both the Astros and the National League champion Dodgers have players from Puerto Rico, which was ravaged in September by Hurricane Maria. The Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez, Astros players Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa, and Astros coach Alex Cora have all worked to raise money to help those on their home island who, five weeks later, are still without food, water and electricity. Beltran donated $1 million of his own money and flew on Astros owner Jim Crane’s private jet to deliver supplies and ferry his family and others to safety on the U.S. mainland.

Such relief efforts are truly heartwarming, but the only practical way to lessen the impacts of hurricanes, heat waves and other extreme weather over the long-term is to reduce the emissions that increase the pace of climate change.

Strangely enough, another parallel between the changing climate and baseball players offers an analogy for the human impact on climate change and extreme weather. Acknowledging that outside influences can affect performance, the major leagues have banned performance-enhancing drugs because they then unnaturally affect the game. While it’s not possible to attribute a single home run to PED use, by unnaturally helping players build muscle mass, they increase the chances that a player will hit it out of the park. Similarly, when large amounts of CO2 are poured into the atmosphere, they help it retain heat, increasing the chances for strong, destructive hurricanes, heat waves, and their sometimes deadly impacts.

Sometime in the next two weeks, in either wildfire-scarred California or hurricane-drenched Texas, baseball will crown a new champion, with possibly some record-breaking and memorable performances along the way. But, for this World Series and those to come let’s hope that record-breaking is confined to RBIs, homeruns and earned runs rather than extreme temperatures and weather. Our climate doesn’t need performance enhancement.