Heatwaves/Climate Emergency

A feature by E Kovalenko

The planet’s average temperature has risen by 1.1C since pre-industrial levels, largely because of the huge increase in greenhouse gases human activity have unleashed. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the biggest contributor to global warming; its concentration in the atmosphere has soared by 48 per cent between 1750 to 2020.

Like glass in a greenhouse, CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases trap the sun’s heat, causing less warmth to return to space. As average temperatures rise – ever closer to the 1.5C mark which will be disastrous for many countries – the amount of weather at the ‘extremely hot’ end of the spectrum increases, making extreme heat events more frequent, longer, and more intense.

“I think we can very confidently say that every heatwave occurring today has been made more intense and more likely because of climate change,” said co-author Dr Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at the UK’s Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment.

In other words, we no longer need to wait for ‘attribution studies’ to prove that climate change is making heat events worse. A study by World Weather Attribution (WWA) found that the heatwave which destroyed a Canadian village last summer – after a record-breaking 49.6C was followed by wildfire – was made 150 times more likely by climate change. It would have been “virtually impossible” without it, the climatologists concluded.