Report finds heatwaves 'virtually impossible without climate change'

July faces record-breaking heatwaves attributed to human-induced climate change impacting parts of the world from Europe to North America and China.
Shubhangi Dua
A tourist shelters from the sun with a panel as she walks past the Colosseum monument in Rome, on July 24 during a heat wave in Italy
A tourist shelters from the sun with a panel as she walks past the Colosseum monument in Rome, on July 24 during a heat wave in Italy

TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images 

Despite scientists recently predicting the arrival of El Niño, a new study suggests that the Earth's warming is a result of human activities.

The Financial Times reported that the heatwaves which hit North America and Europe in July would have been “virtually impossible without climate change,” researchers said.

Researchers spotlighted that extreme weather events would occur with greater frequency in the future.

According to the latest World Weather Attribution (WWA) report, frequent heat waves encountered lately are no longer rare in today’s climate. Such instances are now expected approximately once every 15 years in the US/Mexico region, once every 10 years in Southern Europe, and once in five years for China. 

Heat virtually impossible

The report added that China would have just about experienced such heat circumstances once in 250 years. Whereas maximum heat observed in July would have been “virtually impossible to occur” in the US/Mexico region and Southern Europe.

Researchers attributed the blame for recent events to human habits and emphasized that the planet would not have come to extreme weather conditions if humans had not warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels.

They stated, “Similar to previous studies we found that the heatwaves defined above are 2.5 degree Celsius warmer in Southern Europe, two degree Celsius warmer in North America, and about one degree Celsius in China in today’s climate than they would have been if it was not for human-induced climate change.”

Cease burning fossil fuels

Furthermore, scientists highlighted that the extreme impact of climate change will become a common occurrence if the world doesn't rapidly stop burning fossil fuels. 

In fact, the planet would experience heatwaves that are even hotter and longer-lasting, the researchers reported. “A heatwave like the recent ones would occur every two to five years in a world that is two degree Celsius warmer than the preindustrial climate.”

WWA found that about 75 percent of extreme weather events it had recently assessed were made more likely or severe by climate change, FT noted. 

Friederike Otto, senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment and author of the report, said:

“The result of this attribution study is not surprising. The world hasn’t stopped burning fossil fuels, the climate continues to warm and heatwaves continue to become more extreme.”

Watch the report below to learn more about the impact of climate change.

Unpredictable heat impact

Earlier in June, the UN voiced that climate change is 'out of control' as the hottest days were recorded since 1850. 

For decades, the UN and scientists have been urging governments around the globe to take imminent action and tackle the climate crisis while the world continues to see severe blows of scorching heat.

Now the recent WWA report issues warnings against heatwaves that have the potential to be the deadliest natural hazards, indicating the death of thousands of people each year. 

Researchers further articulated that the currently available global mortality figures are likely an underestimate. “The full impact of a heatwave is rarely known until weeks or months afterward, once death certificates are collected, or scientists can analyze excess deaths,” they said.

Despite the consequential impact of climate change, the WWA also noted that the heat action plans are increasingly being implemented across all three affected regions (Europe, North America, and China). Evidence also implied that the plans have led to reduced heat-related mortality. 

The concerned cities' regions retained urban planning for extreme heat; thus, it could decrease the urban heat island effect.  

However, the researchers highlighted the need for critical measures. “There is an urgent need for an accelerated roll-out of heat action plans in light of increasing vulnerability driven by the intersecting trends of climate change, population aging, and urbanization,” they stated.

The report was published earlier today by Imperial College London, appearing in the Grantham Institute for Climate Change.

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