Temperatures across the UK reached 40°C (104°F) for the first time ever on Tuesday; Ireland experienced the hottest day in 135 years; wildfires burn across Europe; about one third of Americans are under heat advisories and wildfires burn in 12 states. Some trains and flights in Spain and London were cancelled due to fires or extreme heat.
Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deals primarily with predicting the impact of climate change at different levels of severity. I wrote a summary of the IPPC wg1 report after it came out in August 2021 and featured a few key graphics, including this one:
Extreme temperature events that used to occur every 50 years are now predicted to occur every decade (4.8 times per 50 years) as the global temperature has already risen by around 1°C. As you probably remember, the goal of the Paris agreement on climate change was to limit global warming to 1.5°C, ideally, and no more than 2°C. If the temperature increase is limited to 2°C then we’ll experience extreme weather events every 3-4 years (13.9 events per 50 years) and the events will also be more extreme.
Our current CO2 emission trends make the 2°C goal look a bit unlikely, unless we really get our act together fast. So we’re probably facing something closer to the 4°C scenario – the extreme weather events will occur almost annually and they will be much more severe. Instead facing highs of 40°C in the UK, we’ll be looking at temperature records of around 44°C, or higher. A few degrees may not sound like a lot, but the consequences will reach far beyond wildfires, train network shutdowns and melting runways.
In a way, it’s good that the most affluent areas across the globe (Europe and North America) are experiencing these uncomfortable temperature records, because the inhabitants of these regions are responsible for disproportionately high greenhouse gas emissions. And yet, most folk are still living their lives as normal – certainly CO2 emissions are still rising, according to the latest IPCC report. We need to make immediate, significant changes to our lifestyles; think of this extreme weather as a reminder that it’s finally time to wake up!
The number one action that you can take to mitigate climate change is fairly well agreed on.
Do you know what it is? Comment below!