Maybe It’s Time to Invest in Proper Air Conditioning
Firemen put out house fire
Niffy Olamiju
27th of July 2022
A heatwave usually refers to temperatures that are higher than the local average for a certain period of time (five days in Ireland). Heatwaves are not a new phenomenon, however, while heatwaves were once limited to once or twice a year, they are now happening more often and becoming more intense. These increasingly severe heatwaves are having a toll on our environments, public health, and infrastructure. To make matters more complicated due to the increased rate of change there is less certainty when planning for extreme weather as the future climate conditions continue to grow more and more unpredictable. To illustrate just how much the occurrence of heatwaves has increased, records from the UK Met Office show that 9 out of 10 of the hottest days in the UK have occurred since 1990. Warmer weather isn’t exclusive to the UK either, although we’re not hitting the same highs as our temperate counterparts Irish summers have become markedly warmer with higher long-term averages being reached all over the country. This includes a new record high in Dublin of 33.3 degrees temperature in Dublin being recorded on the 18th of July which is 8 degrees above the long-term average.

Compared to pre-industrial times, heatwaves have become up to 10 times more likely to occur and 1-3 degrees warmer due to human intervention.

These heatwaves are not just restricted to temperate zones like Ireland and the UK. Europe has seen an early summer with scorching heat resulting in wildfires, deaths, and water shortages as people attempted to cool off. South East Asia has also come out of a deadly heatwave where temperatures rose up to 45 degrees only to be followed by monsoons which caused devastating destruction as dry earth was washed away in landslides, claiming people’s lives and homes. In addition to heat strokes and wildfires, there has also been an increase in the duration and severity of droughts across the world ranging from East Africa to California. Significant loss of human and plant life from wildfires, sunstroke, and drownings are only some of the repercussions of the changing environment. Extreme weather affects every area of life from structural failures (melting tarmac at airports, transport delays etc) to school closures and work disruptions. Findings from an attribution study by the UK Met Study show that the 2018 UK heatwave has been made thirty times more severe due to climate change. Four years on and researchers like Friederike Otto are of the opinion that in the case of heatwaves the role of human induced climate change is so unequivocal that there is no point in running the type of attribution studies needed in the past to confirm this. Compared to pre-industrial times, heatwaves have become up to 10 times more likely to occur and 1-3 degrees warmer due to human intervention. The costs associated with extreme  weather events like heatwaves and heavy rainfall are not fully understood. As a result they are understudied and not taken as seriously as their more expensive counterparts like storms and tropical cyclones.

 

Our move towards renewable energy is being largely influenced by those who profit from fossil fuels the most.

But given the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves, it is more important than ever to take note of the human cost of their effects on the environment to put a stop to climate change. Going forward, our summers will be warmer and more extreme. Despite the evidence about the adverse effects of fossil fuels our move toward carbon neutrality has been painstakingly slow especially when our move towards renewable energy is being largely influenced by those who profit from fossil fuels the most. Decisions such as that of the European Commission to classify natural gas as renewable energy this year illustrates how much we are being held back by the fossil fuel industry in the fight against climate change. If meaningful change is to be made in progress towards renewable energy and reducing fossil fuels, it cannot be done with the biggest benefactors’ and perpetrators’ needs at the centre of our decision-making process.

Feeling overwhelmed about the climate crisis? Check out our recent article ‘We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe’ to learn about how we have already fought for the future.

 

Featured Photo by Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND News & Comms Intern Penelope Norman.

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