Scientists have confirmed that the recent deadly heatwaves in Europe and the US were caused by the human-caused climate crisis. The heatwaves, which broke temperature records in many locations, would have been nearly impossible without the global heating resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
A study by World Weather Attribution found that the heatwave in China was 50 times more likely due to the climate crisis. The study also found that heatwaves of this intensity are no longer rare and will worsen as emissions continue to increase. If global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius, such heatwaves will occur every two to five years.
In July, temperature records were broken in various locations across southern Europe, the western US, Mexico, and China. The heatwaves led to heat-related deaths and wildfires. During the first week of July, the world experienced the highest global temperatures ever recorded.
Researchers determined that greenhouse gas emissions were responsible for making the heatwaves 2.5 degrees Celsius hotter in Europe, 2 degrees Celsius hotter in North America, and 1 degree Celsius hotter in China compared to a scenario without human-induced changes to the global atmosphere.
The heatwaves have had a devastating impact on people and infrastructure. In Europe, the heatwave caused widespread power outages and transportation disruptions. In the US, the heatwave led to wildfires that destroyed homes and businesses. In China, the heatwave caused crop failures and forced millions of people to evacuate their homes.
Rising temperatures are also posing significant challenges for prisoners and staff in correctional facilities without air conditioning. In the US, at least 11 prisoners have died in recent weeks from heat-related causes.
Calvin Johnson is a survivor of heatstroke in prison. He spent 37 years in a Texas state prison, enduring 37 summers in a jail cell without air conditioning. During extremely hot days when temperatures exceeded 100°F, Johnson had to resort to creative and desperate measures to stay cool and survive.
One method he used was clogging the commode and allowing water to run, then laying his clothes across it to lie in the water for relief. He also soaked his sheets in water and wrapped them around his body. Inmates in such conditions have resorted to extreme measures, with some even drinking water from the toilet, as it was slightly cooler than the water from the cell’s sink.
Experts warn that most societies are ill-prepared to handle deadly extreme heat. The World Health Organisation estimates that heat stress kills more people each year than any other weather-related disaster.
Heat is considered one of the deadliest types of disasters. The elderly, children, and people with chronic health conditions are at the greatest risk of heat-related illness and death. Heat can also cause a number of other health problems, including heat stroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion.
Climate crisis researchers attribute the rising global temperatures to decades of human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to warm. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that it is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.
The burning of fossil fuels leading to global warming is making heatwaves more frequent and intense.
Not all extreme weather events can be directly linked to climate change because natural weather patterns also contribute to their occurrence. However, the IPCC has concluded that climate change is increasing the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, and wildfires.
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