You can feel the heat (and the danger) in the air. And there are more and more days of extreme heat in the world. The number of times the temperature reaches 50 degrees Celsius has doubled since 1980. In addition, such temperatures are also being recorded in more and more areas of the world. It is an unprecedented challenge to our health and the way we live.
The times we hit 50°C increased in each of the past four decades. Between 1980 and 2009, it was about 14 days per year on average. The figure increased to 26 days per year between 2010 and 2019.
“The increase can be 100% attributed to fossil fuel burning.” Says Dr. Friederike Otto, a leading climate scientist. Extreme temperatures are becoming more likely and more intense. They can be deadly for humans and nature. They can also cause major problems for buildings, roads and energy systems.
This occurs mostly in the Middle East and Gulf regions. This summer there were record temperatures of 48.8° C in Italy and 49.6° C in Canada. We will reach 50°C elsewhere unless we reduce fossil fuel emissions.
“We need to act fast. The faster we reduce our emissions, the better off we’ll all be.” So explains climate researcher Sihan Li. “These events will become more severe and more frequent,” he warns.
Droughts around the world
In the last decade, maximum temperatures increased by 0.5° C on average. In Eastern Europe, southern Africa and Brazil some maximum temperatures increased by more than 1° C. The Arctic and the Middle East have seen increases of more than 2°C.
Even below 50° C, high temperatures and humidity can create serious health risks. Up to 1.2 billion people would face heat stress conditions by the year 2100. This is confirmed by a Rutgers University study published last year. That’s four times as many as now.
If there are more and more days of extreme heat, so does the landscape change. Extreme heat increases the likelihood of drought and forest fires. This condition will make fires like those raging in California more frequent.
Yes, the heat is coming. If we don’t do something to stop it soon, we will burn in it.