The 2023 summer’s heat is not your normal one.
July had seen widespread record-breaking heatwaves in America and Europe, which had made headlines in the Western press even as July 4 was declared the day when the global average temperatures were broken.
In a sobering speech below on July 27, UN secretary general António Guterres declared that “the era of global warming has ended and the era of global boiling has arrived.”
The statement comes after the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Union’s Copernicus Earth observation programme confirmed that the past three weeks are on track t be the hottest month ever in human history. Scientists from both organisations point to the burning of fossil fuel as the culprit of the excess of extreme heatwaves and flooding that have happened simultaneously in different parts of the world this month.
“All this is entirely consistent with predictions and repeated warnings. The only surprise is the speed of the change. Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning,” he adds, urging politicians to take more urgent action.
Dr Karsten Haustein from the University of Leipzig has calculated that July 2023 will be 1.3C-1.7C above the average July temperatures recorded before the widespread use of fossil fuels. He is confident that even if the last few days are cooler, the margin of error is enough to make July the hottest yet seen (McGrath & Poynting, 2023).
He also believes that July will be the warmest month in terms of absolute global mean temperature and that we must go back to thousands, if not tens of thousands of years, to find similar temperatures on the planet (McGrath & Poynting, 2023).
The Economist video below features the record-breaking heat that swept various parts of the world this year from Europe to Siberia and the rising death toll due to the heat. It explains what a heatwave is and how heat bulb temperatures can be deadly. Climate adaptation will be crucial as global temperatures rise, making heatwaves hotter and more frequent.
A new field in climate science, extreme weather attribution, aims to describe how much the likelihood of an event (drought, heatwaves, flood) is due to climate change compared to how probably it would have been without it.
This pioneering attribution study began by publishing a 2004 paper entitled “Human Contribution to the European Heat Wave of 2003”, which attributed the 2003 heatwaves in Europe to climate change. According to the attribution study, the heatwave that resulted in 70,000 deaths will also become twice as likely with global warming.
Since then, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative is seeing evidence piling up, and they do real-time analyses of extreme events right after they occur to figure out how much climate change played a role in them.
Niranjan, A. (2023, July 27). ‘Era of global boiling has arrived,’ says UN chief as July set to be hottest month on record. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jul/27/scientists-july-world-hottest-month-record-climate-temperatures
McGrath, A. & Poynting, M. (2023, July 28). Climate change: July set to be world’s warmest month on record. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-66322608
What happens when extreme weather hits several places at once? (2023, July 19). The Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2023/07/19/what-happens-when-extreme-weather-hits-several-places-at-once
Stott, P. A., Stone, D. A., & Allen, M. R. (2004). Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003. Nature, 432(7017), 610-614.