Climate Change

Climate change makes extreme temperatures increasingly likely, study finds

The three months from June to August were the hottest in Europe since records began, due to climate change.

The three months from June to August were the hottest in Europe since records began, due to climate change. Image: Pexels/Johannes Plenio

Stephen Hall
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Climate Change

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  • Droughts like those experienced in France and China this year would be expected every 20 years in today’s climate, but only every 400 years without climate change.
  • Climate change increased extreme weather events like monsoon rainfall in Pakistan.
  • The three months from June to August were the hottest in Europe since records began, due to climate change.

This year, from Finland to Japan, global heatwave records were broken as the world struggled to cope with scorching temperatures.

The Horn of Africa saw the worst drought in over 40 years with more than 18 million people still facing severe hunger in Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya, the UN reports.

Elsewhere, the three months from June to August were the hottest in Europe since records began, by a significant margin, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

A collaborative new study - authored by an international community of scientists for World Weather Attribution - found that climate change is likely to make incidents of extreme heat, and hotter and drier summers more common.

Droughts more likely, due to climate change, report finds

This summer, parts of Europe and China experienced the kind of dry soil conditions expected to occur every 400 years in the absence of climate change. But, with today’s temperatures, it’s more likely to be once every 20 years, the report warns.

“This new study clearly points to the fingerprint of climate change and should be another wake-up call to reduce emissions, but also to invest more in resilience,” says Professor Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent climate centre, and one of the lead authors of the study.

Climate change is also increasing the likelihood of extreme monsoon rainfall in Pakistan, which this year has left almost 10 million children in need of immediate, lifesaving support, according to UNICEF.

Extreme temperatures also exacerbated the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and limited the use of more sustainable sources of power.

Reservoirs in parts of China dried up, by half, affecting hydropower stations in Southwestern Sichuan, which provides 80% of the province’s electricity, according to APNews.

The region is China’s largest hydropower supplier and during the drought’s peak, Sichuan’s hydropower generation fell by more than 50%, according to Carbon Brief. To mitigate against the losses in energy generation, China mined more polluting coal, the South China Morning Post reported.

Changes happening “faster than expected”

“Climate change is really hitting us hard, not just in poor countries like Pakistan, but also in some of the richest parts of the world, like west central Europe, that had been considered less vulnerable. It’s playing out in front of our eyes even faster than we might have expected,” van Aalst said.

The study also found that without human-caused climate change, temperatures of 40°C in the UK would have been extremely unlikely.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, found that the last decade has seen the highest ever increase in global emissions.

“Projected global emissions from (national pledges) place limiting global warming to 1.5C beyond reach and make it harder after 2030 to limit warming to 2C,” the panel said.

Current targets to limit global warming to 1.5°C will be missed without greater action against climate change.
Current targets to limit global warming to 1.5°C will be missed without greater action against climate change. Image: Our World In Data.

COP27 progress needed

In November, world leaders will meet at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to build on pledges made last year in Glasgow. The forthcoming talks must focus on the goals of climate finance, adequate representation and people-centric investment to achieve success, says Anurit Kanti, writing for the World Economic Forum.

And, as the extreme summer of 2022 has proved, the need for a successful outcome from climate talks has never been more urgent.

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Climate ChangeAir PollutionAfrica
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