The World is Getting Hotter…
A global BBC analysis last week found that the number of extremely hot days every year when the temperature reaches 50 Celsius has doubled since the 1980s. The total number of days above 50C has increased in each decade since 1980. On average, between 1980 and 2009, temperatures passed 50C about 14 days a year. The number rose to 26 days a year between 2010 and 2019. In the same period, temperatures of 45C and above occurred on average extra two weeks a year. This month the UN’s top climate official Patricia Espinosa urged Governments to stop their “deferral and delay” tactics and instead embrace rapid, widespread actions to curb and adapt to global warming.
From massive flooding in Germany to the raging wildfires in Greece and Turkey, the past few months have recorded back-to-back extreme weather, and Espinosa warned that no nation is safe from the impacts of climate change. Furthermore, in a joint editorial published on 5 September, editors of more than 200 medical journals worldwide labelled a 1.5-degree-Celsius rise in global temperatures as the “greatest threat to global public health”—and urged world leaders to prioritise emission reductions to avoid “catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.” The writers cite studies that show the dangers of increasing temperatures, including how, over the past 20 years, “heat-related mortality among people over 65 years of age has increased by more than 50 per cent.”
In addition, increased temperatures have exacerbated “dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality,” and are “hampering efforts to reduce undernutrition.” Recently, droughts caused by extreme weather led hundreds of citizens in the Southern Iranian Province of Khuzestan, where summer temperatures were close to 50 degrees Celsius, to take to the streets in protest about the severe water shortages and the Teheran Government’s failure to manage the crisis. The demonstrations had led to violent clashes with security forces where several protesters had been killed.
The increasing temperature, according to Oxford academic Dr. Friederike Otto can be fully attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. The high heat can be deadly to humans and nature as well as buildings and infrastructure setting a volatile stage for lives and economies in the future. Temperatures around 50C are most commonly recorded in the Middle East and the Gulf regions but are now recorded in places least expected. Canada, despite its close proximity to the North Pole, reported a record breaking 49.6C this summer along with severe heatwaves that have killed hundred in recent months.
The strangest phenomenon was the opposite weather extremes affecting the continental USA when New York and other Eastern States experienced massive floods and inclement weather while California was suffering from acute droughts. However, the ugliest fact is that these effects are disproportionate when they are felt globally. Yes, Germany may experience record floods this year, but they have the means to bounce back up in a couple of weeks whereas in some parts of the world that don’t contribute as much to the rising global temperatures have to suffer the consequences for years to come. Amid this trend, it’s assuring to see that Sri Lanka has at least acknowledged the dire situation as compared with more industrialised nations who have flirted with climate change denial for years. Sustainability is not a catchy term to be said on a podium and might be the very thing that ensures our survival as a species in this finite planet.