Scientists from the World Weather Attribution group finds that the current heat waves sweeping parts of Europe and North America would have almost been impossible but for the human-caused climate change. In the new rapid analysis of extreme temperatures, the group of scientists concludes that southern Europe smarted under 2.5 degrees Celsius hotter weather. Similarly, the southern and south-west United States including Phoenix, Arizona suffered three straight weeks of record-breaking high temperatures above 43 degrees Celsius. In pockets of the US, Europe, Mexico and China, temperature was recorded above 45 degrees Celsius.
Overall, heat waves in northern America and China were 2.0 degrees and 1.0 degree Celsius hotter respectively. Global warming made heat waves 50 times more compelling in parts of China. It is now scientifically established that with about 1.2 degrees Celsius rise in temperature above the pre-industrial level, climate change has led in general to hotter, longer and more frequent heat waves.
It is not the heat waves alone that are making life miserable for millions of people across the globe, forest fires in Canada and Greece have taken the worst possible turn because of the hot and dry weather. Canada is a large country but about 1,000 forest fires at a time present the enormity of the problem. Smokes from those burning infernos are wafted to northern US causing poor air quality and pollution to threaten health of residents in northern US cities. Dangerous wild fires in the mainland Greece and its islands have forced tens of thousands of residents and tourists to flee homes and hotels for safety. The tourists in particular were rushing to avail the first available flights out of the country.
Now climate scientists are not as quick to establish links between global warming and all other extreme weather events as they are to do so in case of heat waves. Scientists from US, UK and the Netherlands in the World Weather Attribution group also studied the role of El Nino occurring naturally to induce powerful climate fluctuations. Beginning in June, the phenomenon has caused warm water to rise to the surface in the tropical Pacific Ocean, pushing heat into the air. Record rise in global temperatures and sea surface temperatures including in the North Atlantic may have contributed to the hottest ever July since the documentation of temperatures began.
Yet the scientists blame, for good reasons, the greenhouse gas pumped into the atmosphere out of increasing burning of fossil fuels. This time El Nino may have added to the cause by coinciding with the July heat waves. But the prediction is even direr for those affected parts of the planet. Neither is Bangladesh spared the suffering from heat waves although the current spell is milder to the scorching one under which it gasped for breath for weeks last month. This is the month of Shrabon on the Bangla calendar but it is almost rainless, so much that farmers and policymakers are worried over the fate of Aus and Aman paddies. Indeed, climate change is taking its toll in unprecedented manners. Aren’t heat waves in the second month of the monsoon an unheard-of phenomenon in this part of the world?
According to another study, 61,000 people in Europe died from heat-related causes last year. This year’s toll is yet to be released. It is likely to be higher because of the extra severity of heat waves this year. Even without scientific study, day-to-day experiences of the change in the weather patterns makes even the ordinary people convinced of the fact that the world is no more like the one they and their forefathers knew. They are feeling the heat, suffering effects of capricious climate like drought that has caused soil of Aus and Aman fields develop cracks right at the time parts of the country are experiencing floods. Indeed the latter natural calamity is not considered unnatural around this time of the year.
It is perhaps because of this the climate scientists have not readily agreed to establish link between global warming and all extreme weather events. But it is impossible to ignore the melting of polar ice and the glaciers on the Himalaya and other mountains. Floods are caused by excessive rains but also because the melted ice only hastens the process.
Presently, though, American and European experts are more concerned, contrary to their listlessness in the past because as citizens of colder parts of the planet they had no idea of the danger from heat waves they would encounter, about adapting to hotter weather. Suggestions are made for constructing heat-resistant homes, public ‘cool centres’ for people to take shelter and finding ways to cool cities most likely by way of massive tree plantation.
The first two are temporary measures to fight heat waves and the third one certainly has merits to bring about some sustainable remedy. Yet these fall far short of the requirement of keeping temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. In fact, further lowering of the global temperature under an urgent and coordinated initiative by the world’s rich economies, the top polluters as well, should now be the primary objective. This will call for massive investment and rejection of the polluting means of production. The required money is there if the boundless amount spent on armaments or better known as sophisticated killing machines can be avoided.