The heat records being set around the globe foreshadow a world where new record setting high temperatures are commonplace. According to the EU‘s satellite agency, last month was the hottest June ever recorded.
Europe has been suffering through excruciating heat waves and countries including France have set all time heat records exceeding 45C. In parts of Asia including Kuwait and India temperatures are exceeding 50 Celsius.
While seasonal temperature spikes are not evidence of global warming, they are part of a clear and unmistakable trend. There have been a succession of hot months in 2019 including the Earth’s fourth-hottest May, and the second-hottest April and March. February’s global average temperature was the fifth hottest on record and January was the third hottest.
In the period between December 2018 and February 2019 there was record heat in much of Australia, parts of northeastern Brazil, the Southern Ocean, East China and the Barents Seas and southeastern Pacific Ocean. It is not just that we have seen hot temperatures in 2019, this is part of a decades long warming trend.
The last time be saw monthly temperatures that fell below the mean was February 1985. Decades of hot data including 35 years or more than 410 months of above average temperatures makes the warming trend impossible to refute. We are breaking temperature records with increasing regularity with the 10 warmest years on record having occurred since 1998.
Warmer weather also causes more precipitation, more storms and more flooding. The United States has had to deal with some intense flooding in 2019. We have seen protracted floods in the Midwest, and more recently flash flooding in Washington and Louisiana. Heatwaves have even grounded planes, buckled train tracks, and led to school closures.
It is not accurate to say that this is the new normal as it will likely get worse. According to new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change we can expect to see more temperature records being broken in fact we can expect a succession of record breaking heatwaves in most of the world.
These researchers also make it clear that these temperature increases are directly tied to rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions associated with human activity. They also indicate that these higher temperatures make air pollution worse and make water more scarce leading to agricultural failures, malnutrition and starvation.
The scientists conclude that their modeling predicts high monthly mean temperature records will be set in 58 percent of the world every year. The highest monthly mean temperature increases will occur in developing countries and small island states. Low lying countries like the Marshall Islands are already facing existential threats as they are fighting to stay above the waves having faced repeated inundations in 2019.
Climate change is is contributing to species extinction and represents a significant threat to human life. Extreme heat fuels both drought and wildfires but heatwaves are the most deadly form of extreme weather and this summer’s heatwaves are no exception. People have succumbed to heat stroke, breathing issues, heart attacks, and kidney problems. According to conservative estimates from the W.H.O. a quarter of a million people are expected to die annually between 2030 and 2050 due to climate change.
Current temperatures show a 1.3 C global average temperature increase. The upper threshold limit agreed to in the Paris Climate Accord is between 1.5C and 2C. Other studies show that even if we keep temperatures from rising beyond 2C. more than a billion people will be forced to relocate and at least two billion more will suffer from food and water scarcity. At 3C. coastal cities would be inundated and as much as 90 percent of humanity could die.
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