Global temperatures reaching unprecedented heights have alarmed experts and prompted warnings of the “new normal” heatwave in a world affected by climate change, as reported by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the United Nations weather agency.

The week witnessed a staggering heatwave across continents, with temperatures surging above 50°C (122°F) in parts of the United States and China. Europe was not spared either, with the region experiencing unusually high temperatures, even during the night. Forecasts indicate that the heatwave may extend into August.

2023 is on track to become the warmest year since record-keeping began in the 1800s.

Berkeley Earth, a non-profit research organisation, has been analysing global temperatures every month since October 2019 to predict the year’s ultimate heat ranking. Their latest analysis, published on 11 July, found that there is a “fairly high chance” of 2023 being the warmest year on record, with a probability of over 80%. Dr Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, made this announcement.

Heat advisory

Millions of people worldwide are currently under heat advisories as officials warn against life-threatening conditions due to extreme temperatures. Specific incidents highlight the severity of the situation: Death Valley in California recorded a scorching 53.9°C (128°F), China’s western Xinjiang region saw a provisional all-time high of 52.2°C (126°F), and southern Spain reached 46°C (115°F).

Scientists unanimously agree that climate change is the primary driver of longer, more intense, and constant heatwave. As temperatures soar to unprecedented heights, the impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy, and water supplies becomes increasingly significant.

WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas warns of the dire consequences of extreme weather events, emphasising the urgent need for action. The current scenario poses grave risks to various aspects of life, necessitating immediate efforts to mitigate the impact.

Leading UK scientist Dr Frederieke Otto from Imperial College London points out that extreme temperatures and global warming trends align precisely with expectations in a world that continues to burn fossil fuels.

Inaction has far-reaching implications. Urgent steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions are now essential to tackling this escalating climate crisis effectively. Implementing sustainable practices and transitioning to renewable energy sources is imperative to combat climate change and secure a safer future for generations to come.

As governments, industries, and individuals grapple with the pressing reality of climate change, international cooperation and concerted efforts are vital to mitigate its consequences and build a more resilient world.

Carbon dioxide released from burning coal, oil, and gas has significantly contributed to temperature rise.

The future climate remains unpredictable until the world takes decisive action to transition away from fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, offer a path towards a stable and sustainable future.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) stresses the imperative of halting new oil, gas, and coal projects. This stance comes as an urgent call to curb carbon emissions and steer the world toward cleaner energy solutions.

Growing heatwave

Europe faces a climate reality that is even more troubling than initially anticipated. The region is experiencing warming at a rate faster than predicted by many climate models, raising concerns that the situation may spiral out of control.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre has sounded the alarm about countries’ ill-preparedness to cope with the escalating heat. The heatwave poses significant threats to human lives and well-being, especially in vulnerable communities. Urgent action is needed to bolster resilience and disaster response mechanisms to protect those most at risk.

Recent incidents of extreme heat-related disasters underscore the situation’s gravity. In Greece, wildfires forced the evacuation of 1,200 children from holiday camps, while the Spanish island of La Palma witnessed widespread home destruction due to the blistering heat. These events remind us of climate action urgency.

Phoenix, Arizona, has been grappling with an unprecedented heatwave, enduring temperatures above 43°C (110°F) for 18 days. To support residents during this trying time, the city has implemented measures such as distributing water and cooling towels and establishing respite centres.

Prof Hannah Cloke from the University of Reading in the UK deems this heatwave potentially deadly for vulnerable populations.

Heat-related fatalities are a concern as extreme temperatures persist. Prof Cloke estimates that over 61,000 people died from heat-related causes in Europe in the previous year, and she fears a similar situation in the current year. Vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected, making it imperative to address heatwave health risks.

The world stands at a critical juncture, where climate change is no longer a distant threat but a pressing reality.