• Unprecedented Heat Waves
Climate change is one of today’s most pressing issues, and its effects are already being seen in far-reaching ways. From water shortages to rising sea levels, the signs of climate change are now cropping up in all manner of environmental impacts — including increasingly frequent, and more intense, heat waves.
Records Shattered from Seemingly Endless Heat Waves
In recent years, unprecedented heat waves have become the norm. In 2019, for instance, temperatures in France soared to 109.4°F, the highest ever recorded in the country’s documented history — and even higher than the 2007 record of 105.1°F. And, as of 2020, ongoing heat waves throughout Europe and the Mediterranean have set new temperature records in places including Germany and Italy.
A Rising Global Temperature
Now, after more than a century of rising global temperatures, scientists are measuring the effects of anthropogenic climate change — including the changing frequency and intensity of heat waves. The average global temperature has increased by roughly 2°F since the beginning of the 20th century, and the rate of increase has more than doubled over the past 50 years. As temperatures continue to rise, so — apparently — do the temperatures of the most extreme heat waves.
These anomalies match up to the predictions of climate models, which suggest that, as global climate warms, extreme events may become more frequent and more intense. For instance, hot and dry conditions can potentially lead to longer and more severe heat waves even in temperate climates — like western Europe — that are normally more temperate.
Heat Waves a Sign of Things to Come?
Climate change is one of the most pressing global issues of our times, and the ever-increasing frequency of unprecedented heat waves is a frightening sign of the times.
Researchers have long-since suspected that a ‘tipping point’ may be looming, wherein fluctuations in climate could potentially be too extreme for humans to cope with in their current form. For instance, if temperatures rise to dangerous levels in certain parts of the world, many areas may become uninhabitable for some period of time.
Unfortunately, these rising temperatures will also likely create a feedback loop — as warmer temperatures can lead to drier soil that is more prone to drought. This feedback loop could lead to large-scale issues down the line, including a disastrous rise in sea levels, and further disruption to the global climate and ecosystems.
What Can We Do?
Of course, receding glaciers and increasingly extreme weather events should serve as a wake-up call — and a call to action — for us all. Intergovernmental organizations, individual governments, and individuals should take this opportunity to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and shift to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy.
And, as we work to reduce emissions, it’s also important to remember that renewable energy sources — like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power — are both cost-effective and clean.
On the local scale, individuals can also do their part to reduce their own carbon footprints — and to help combat climate change in more meaningful ways. From reducing one’s reliance on cars and other motor vehicles, to choosing to eat less meat, and investing in energy-efficient appliances, there are many ways to make a positive impact.
Overall, with unprecedented heat waves now the norm — and fields of research dedicated to understanding the effects of climate change — it’s clear that something must be done. From large-scale action within governments and organizations, to individual-level efforts to reduce our own emissions, it’s time to start making meaningful changes now.
What’s more, by taking action and working together, we have the opportunity to create a more sustainable world and to mitigate the worst effects of global climate change. And that’s an effort that’s worth undertaking.