How to respond to the avalanche of record-breaking extreme weather and temperatures terrorising the planet? For many scientists it is a moment of genuine despair, but also a time to resist climate doomism.
For British tourists still flying to Greece while it is on fire, and a few holdout news organisations, the answer seems to be to look away or deflect. We shouldn’t join them. Equally, as Michael Mann and Susan Joy Hassol have argued, there is no need to inflate the magnitude of what is happening. The reality is confronting enough.
Here’s some of what we know. Mediterranean Europe and northern Africa are burning. Wildfires in at least nine countries, particularly Greece, Algeria and Italy, are killing people and wrecking lives, livelihoods and nature. They follow historic blazes in Canada a few weeks ago.
There have been bad fires before, of course, but these have been exacerbated by what is almost certainly the hottest month on record due to the extreme northern summer. Across the globe, the average temperature for most days in July has been hotter than any previous day that we know of. The list of records broken is itself unprecedented. A heat dome in the US south-west has pushed the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona, beyond 43C for 27 days straight. Beijing usually has 11 days a year hotter than 35C, but has already had 27 scorchers. If these trends continue this may be the hottest year on record.
That seems particularly likely for sea temperatures, where records have already been smashed. Zeke Hausfather, a US-based climate scientist and writer, calculated that the heat in the northern Atlantic Ocean has now pushed beyond what climate models predicted. It suggests something extraordinary is happening in that part of the world. Similarly, the amount of sea ice around Antarctica continues to be far below previous record lows.
But Hausfather found for the planet as a whole – both on the land and sea surface – temperatures were within what most climate models projected, just at the hotter end of it. Put another way: this is not actually worse than we expected. It is the brutal reality of what scientists told us would happen.
A quick study published this week by the World Weather Attribution group suggests the heatwaves over Europe, the US and China would have been virtually impossible without human interference – that is, our burning of fossil fuels. The researchers found the run of extreme heat in China had been made 50 times more likely by the carbon pollution we have collectively pumped out.
This is happening when the world is, on average, about 1.2C hotter than pre-industrial times. If the temperature rise hits 2C we can expect these brutal heat waves every two-to-five years.
Read more at The Guardian