Jeff Goodell - The Heat Will Kill You First

“When heat comes, it’s invisible. It doesn’t bend tree branches or blow hair across your face to let you know it’s arrived. . . . The sun feels like the barrel of a gun pointed at you.” 

The world is waking up to a new reality: wildfires are now seasonal in California, the Northeast is getting less and less snow each winter, and the ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctica are melting fast. Heat is the first-order threat that drives all other impacts of the climate crisis. As the temperature rises, it is revealing fault lines in our governments, our politics, our economy and our values. Journalist Jeff Goodall says the basic science is not complicated: Stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, and the global temperature will stop rising tomorrow. Stop burning fossil fuels in 50 years, and the temperature will keep rising for 50 years, making parts of our planet virtually uninhabitable. The hotter it gets, the deeper and wider our fault lines will open.

Goodell's book The Heat Will Kill You First is about the extreme ways in which our planet is already changing. It is about why spring is coming a few weeks earlier and fall is coming a few weeks later—and the impact that will have on everything from our food supply to disease outbreaks. It is about what will happen to our lives and our communities when typical summer days in Chicago or Boston go from 90 degrees Fahrenheit to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. A heatwave, Goodell explains, is a predatory event, one that culls the most vulnerable people; but that is changing—as heatwaves become more intense and more common, they will become more democratic. 

As an award-winning journalist who has been at the forefront of environmental journalism for decades, Goodell might be his most provocative yet, explaining how extreme heat will dramatically change the world as we know it. 


Andrew Dudley


A People & Nature Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums.

Photo courtesy the speaker.

Image - Jeff Goodell

Jeff Goodell

Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone ; Author, The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet and The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized ; Twitter @jeffgodell

Image - Andrew Dudley

Andrew Dudley

Co-host and Producer, Earth Live; Chair, People & Nature Member-led Forum, The Commonwealth Club of California—Moderator