Red-hot planet as world’s records are smashed
How much does this heatwave have to do with climate change? It is 33C in Scotland and 41C in Denver. As the globe bakes in hot weather, some are asking if climate change could be to blame.
Roads are melting, railways are buckling and wildfires are tearing through the British countryside. In the US, 80 million people have received warnings about potentially deadly temperatures. Quriyat in Oman just recorded the hottest ever 24-hour period on Earth.
Across the globe, records are being broken and the weather isn’t likely to cool down soon. The UK’s heatwave is forecast to last at least another fortnight, while temperatures in the US’s eastern states will keep climbing into next week. In March, by contrast, the Beast from the East blanketed Europe in snow. As the weather gets weirder, people are wondering if climate change could be a factor.
Many scientists think so, warning that freak weather events could become the “new normal”. Their predictions paint a bleak picture. By the end of the century, Jakarta in Indonesia could see deadly temperatures every day of the year.
Hot weather means less rain. Rainfall in Ethiopia is forecast to decrease by 10% in the next 50 years. Some experts predict there could even be water wars between countries as supplies run dry.
But others say global droughts have not changed in the past 60 years.
How much does this heatwave have to do with climate change?
A lot, say some. Climate change may not directly cause extreme weather events, but we know it can make them more common and more severe. Scientific advances in extreme event attribution mean we’re increasingly able to pinpoint the precise effects our actions are having on the environment.
We just don’t know, say others. While climate change may be having a small effect on base temperatures, the data is too shaky to conclude it’s influencing the present hot spell. We can’t reliably predict the weather next week, so why should we listen to projections for in 50 years’s time?
- Would you like this heatwave to last forever?
- Write down three changes you could make to your everyday life that would help the environment.
Some People Say...
“I think [that] climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax.”President Donald Trump
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Places around the world have seen record-breaking temperatures. Denver, Colorado, set an all-time high of 41C last Thursday, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland saw their hottest weather on record.
- What do we not know?
- We can’t be sure of the role climate change is playing in the current heatwave. There are many complex factors that contribute to the weather.
- Deadly temperatures
- There have been at least eight heat-related deaths in the US and Canada in the last week.
- Beast from the East
- The UK and much of Europe were blasted with bitterly cold winds in March and April.
- Water wars
- Experts predict that access to water could cause conflicts in the future.
- Have not changed
- A study published in Nature journal found no change to global droughts in the past 60 years.
- Extreme event attribution
- An area of science that aims to directly link extreme weather to climate change.