Written by Simon Lewis
The climate crisis means that summer is a time of increasingly dangerous heat. This week in the Pacific north-west, temperature records are not just being broken, they are being obliterated. Temperatures reached a shocking 47.9C in British Columbia, Canada. Amid temperatures more typically found in the Sahara desert, dozens have died of heat stress, with “roads buckling and power cables melting”.
Another heatwave earlier in June saw five Middle East countries top 50°C. The extreme heat reached Pakistan, where 20 children in one class were reported to have fallen unconscious and needed hospital treatment for heat stress. Thankfully, they all survived.
Additional warming from greenhouse gas emissions means that such extreme heatwaves are more likely and scientists can now calculate the increase in their probability. For example, the 2019 European heatwave that killed 2,500 people was five times more likely than it would have been without global warming.
In most places, extreme heatwaves outside the usual range for a region will cause problems, from disrupting the economy to widespread mortality, particularly among the young and old. Yet in places in the Middle East and Asia something truly terrifying is emerging: the creation of unliveable heat.
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