This story includes details on the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.
The killer heat wave that gripped the United Kingdom last summer was 160 times more likely because of climate change, according to analysis released last week by the UK Met Office.
“Scientists were shocked in July when the daily temperature record passed 40°C for the first time, obliterating the previous high of 38.7°C,” the Guardian reports. “The hot summer led to thousands of early deaths.”
But the UK can now expect those temperature extremes every three or four years, compared to once in 500 years if not for global heating.
Earlier analysis by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) network had put the heat wave at 10 times more likely due to climate change.
“Higher temperatures in the UK are contributing to more severe heat waves, droughts, and wildfires but also more intense rainfall events and flooding,” said University of Reading climate scientist Richard Allan. “These impacts will become progressively worse until global temperatures are stabilized by cutting global carbon emissions to net zero.”
Across all the nations that make up the UK, 2022 was the hottest year on record, with the average annual temperature exceeding 10°C for the first time, the Guardian writes.
“Even with the influence of climate change we don’t expect every year to be the hottest on record from now on,” said Met Office science manager Dr. Mark McCarthy. “Natural variability of the UK climate means there will always be some variation year to year. However, looking at longer-term trends, it is easy to pick out the influence climate change is having over time.”
But none of that thinking was enough to make climate change a 2023 priority for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “According to a YouGov poll, the environment ranks fourth in the public’s list of the most important issues facing the country,” the Belfast Telegraph reports. “But it was left out of Mr. Sunak’s five-point pledge to halve inflation, grow the economy, curb illegal [English] Channel crossings, and bring down the national debt and [National Health Service] waiting times.”
The omission didn’t sit well with UK climate scientists.
“A PM who issues more than 100 new oil and gas exploration licences and gives the go-ahead for a new coal mine clearly hasn’t a clue or simply doesn’t care, or perhaps both,” said Prof. Bill McGuire of University College London.
“The new oil and gas exploration licences need to be revoked and all subsidies to the fossil fuel sector stopped, or better still switched to renewables,” McGuire added. “There also needs to be a massive program of insulation, to reduce energy costs and to make people’s homes less like furnaces during the baking summers that are becoming the norm.”
“Temperature records are being broken across Europe and the climate crisis in on everyone’s mind, but conspicuously absent from the Prime Minister’s lips,” said Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr. “This is the most important problem for any PM to confront and yet, just two months in, Rishi is already failing to show leadership in both words and deeds.”
Instead, “he should kick-start a war effort to end the energy wastage from our homes, take the brakes off wind and solar power, and stop trying to make the crisis worse by looking for more oil and gas.”