The World Meteorological Organization, WMO, warns heatwaves, raging wildfires and record-breaking temperatures are becoming normal because of climate change.
Meteorologists say the scorching heatwave sweeping Europe is likely to last well into the middle of next week, smashing more temperature records as it continues.
They warn the time between heatwaves is becoming shorter, noting the current event was preceded by a similar one in June. And they say the likelihood of a third heatwave occurring before summer ends is strong.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said he has no doubt as to what is behind the phenomenon.
“Thanks to climate change, we have started breaking records nationally and also regionally,” Taalas said. “In the future, these kinds of heatwaves are going to be normal, and we will see even stronger extremes.”
He said people have pumped so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the negative trend will continue for decades. Those who will suffer most, he said, are the elderly and sick. The WMO chief said more frequent, intense heatwaves also will have a major adverse effect on agriculture.
“In the previous heatwaves in Europe, we lost big parts of harvest, and under the current situation we are already having this global food crisis,” Taalas said. “Because of the war in Ukraine, this heatwave is going to have a further negative impact on agricultural activities.”
The World Health Organization’s director of environment and health, Maria Neira, said heat compromises the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. She warned that will lead to a cascade of illnesses, including heat cramps, heat stroke and hyperthermia.
“We are very much concerned that when this heatwave coincides as well with high levels of pollution in the form that will exacerbate the respiratory, cardiovascular and general diseases and conditions,” Neira said. “And this is a major concern, as well for those big urban spaces where the cities that are not well adapted to cope with these high temperatures.”
Scientists emphasize climate change is happening even faster than drafters of the Paris climate change agreement anticipated. They note warming in many regions already has surpassed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The WMO’s Taalas said the world is heading for 2.5 degrees Celsius warming, which means heatwaves and other extreme weather events will become a normal part of life. He said that should be a wake-up call for human beings.