Climate change is real, and intense and increasing heat waves are part of that reality. But this is not the end of the story. Here are five things everyone should know about heat waves—some bad news, some surprising news, and even some good news.
1) There is a strong climate change link almost everywhere.
Heat waves like one Temperatures broke records in Great Britain and Europe Scientists have weather phenomena this week most belief in a link to human-caused climate change.
In its latest assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used its strongest language to describe heat waves, stating with virtual certainty that they have become more frequent and intense globally since 1950, and that greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of these changes.
2) The connection is not as strong in the US.
It will probably come as a surprise to many, but the US is one of the exceptions to the global trend. The IPCC is less confident about the upward trend in American heat waves since 1900, noting that large-scale agriculture and associated irrigation may help limit summer hot weather extremes.
Indeed, the US government’s latest National Climate Assessment concluded that the frequency of heat waves in the US has increased since the 1960s – but they have not yet reached the levels seen in the first 40 years of the last century. Using an index first presented in a paper I co-authored, the US NCA concludes that the intensity of heat waves in the US remains well below what was observed in the 1920s and 1930s. As hot as it was today, it was worse.
3) No one needs to die from extreme heat.
Heat waves are common all over the world and only more common in such places Like London, they were rarely experienced. This hard-earned experience means we have developed a good understanding of how to keep people safe in extreme temperatures. A recent study of heat wave deaths in the United States finds that the risk has steadily declined since the 1970s despite population growth and increased heat wave incidence.
Looking ahead, even as the IPCC predicts that heat waves will continue to increase, the World Health Organization claims that with appropriate adaptation responses, no one should die from heat. Of course, knowing what to do and doing it are two different things, which means we should prioritize better adaptation to extreme weather conditions.
4) Heat waves are likely to become more widespread and more intense.
Another place where the IPCC expresses its strongest conviction is in its heat wave projections, in fact certain heat waves will become more frequent and intense. He predicts that these increases will occur under future scenarios and that there will be greater emissions associated with more heat waves. This means that no matter how fast the world continues to reduce fossil fuel consumption, advanced adaptation will be needed.
5) The world will need more air conditioners and that means more energy.
It means more heat more demand for air conditioning. According to the estimates of the International Energy Agency, there are about 2 billion air conditioners in the world today. That number is expected to almost triple by 2050, with most of the growth coming from India, China and elsewhere. About 90% of US households already have an air conditioner. In India, it is only 5%, but is likely to increase rapidly in the coming decades. More air conditioning means more energy consumption – the IEA estimates that 37% of the increase in electricity consumption by 2050 will come from cooling.
Rising demand means we must prioritize both more efficient air conditioning technologies and more carbon-free energy supplies such as nuclear, wind and solar. Until we do, we should expect that fossil fuels will power an increasing number of air conditioners, because if the choice is between being hot and being cool, we know that people around the world will choose cool, as we do here, regardless of energy supply. United States.
Heat waves are a reality. As well as this they will be more general and intense. This means we need to redouble our efforts to prepare so that when heat waves do occur, their damage is limited.
Roger Pielke Jr. He is a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He writes about science, politics and policy at The Honest Broker, rogerpielkejr.substack.com.
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