We recently read a BBC News article with the headline: ‘Met Office Issues First UK Extreme Heat Warning’. For a moment, it felt a little like one of those turning points in a Hollywood disaster movie, shortly before everything hits the fan.
Unfortunately, that is a feeling we have been having more and more often when listening to or reading the news in recent years. And like the typically aloof, widely discredited, most likely divorced, yet brilliant protagonist in such films, too often it feels like the powers that be aren’t listening or taking action.
Launched only last month, at the time the Met Office said of its new warning system: “The impacts of extreme heat can be many and varied. It can have health consequences, especially for those who are particularly vulnerable, and it can impact infrastructure, including transport and energy, as well as the wider business community.”
The press release went on to highlight how the UK State of the Climate report, published in 2019, showed that “warm spells” have more than doubled in length from 5.3 days in 1961-90 to over 13 days in 2008-2017. Extreme summer temperatures, as witnessed in 2018, are now thirty times more likely than during pre-industrial times. The report’s suggestion that such temperatures could become normal by the 2050s feels optimistic given what we have seen in the two summers since the report’s release.
It’s lead author, The Met Office’s Mike Kendon, explained: “A lot of people think climate change is in the future – but this proves the climate is already changing here in the UK. As it continues to warm we are going to see more and more extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods.”
BBC Newsreader Sophie Raworth recently sprinkled some more bad news on top as Mr Plastic Free Home was sipping his customary ten o’clock cup of tea, announcing that this July had been the third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest on record and that no other year appeared in the top ten for all three measures.
It is therefore desperately frustrating when you see our own Prime Minister flying from London to Cornwall for a G7 summit, or learn that our country’s Climate Minister Alok Sharma has travelled to more than 30 countries in just seven months. I’ve achieved perhaps one third of that in four decades.
Worldwide, the picture is no better. In fact, it’s often worse – as evidenced by the growing devastation caused by extreme weather events in countries ranging from Australia and China to Bangladesh and the USA, not to mention across Europe.
Globally, 2020 concluded the Earth’s warmest decade on record, while the ten hottest years have all occurred since 2005. 2021 is predicted to take one of those top ten positions.
Around two weeks ago, representatives of 195 governments met to review and discuss The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most significant study and report since 2013. Many experts in the field have expressed a hope that the report will serve as a “wake-up call” to world leaders.
Back in 2013, the IPCC stated that humans had been the “dominant cause” of global warming dating back to the 1950s. The IPCC’s research played a pivotal role in countries signing the Paris Agreement in 2015 and has informed us all of the importance of limiting global warming to under 1.5°C versus pre-industrial levels.
This time around, the IPCC’s report will no doubt shape the agenda at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, set to take place in Glasgow this November. Let us hope that it is not an event, and more so an unmissable opportunity, that humanity looks back on and asks “what if?” in years to come. Cross your fingers. In fact, cross everything you can.
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