The last time Ireland had a summer heatwave as extreme as this one was 1976.
A simpler time – a time before climate change, you may say with a sigh – but no. By 1976 the results of the Industrial Revolution already had some scientists warning of the potential climatic dangers of carbon dioxide pollution. Now, in 2018, we’re faced with those dangers every day. And while a spell of hot, dry weather in a place as notoriously wet as Ireland is welcomed with open arms by the general populace, the writing on the wall is hard to ignore.
In Ireland, the current heatwave was made more than twice as likely by climate change. That’s nothing compared to Denmark’s heatwave, which was made five times more likely by climate change. These figures were calculated using attribution studies, which compare the frequency of similar weather events at a particular weather station in the past against modelled results of the climate without the influence of human carbon dioxide emissions. With a great deal of number crunching, researchers can thus calculate the influence of climate change on extreme events. Last year’s ‘Lucifer’ heatwave in southern Europe, for example, was found to have been made ten times more likely.
It’s been a scorcher throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere this summer, with disastrous events resulting from the heat including drought, flash flooding, crop failures and wildfires. The most tragic example is the wildfires in Greece, which burned out of control for hours in the densely populated coastal areas of Attica. This fire was the deadliest wildfire in European history, with 91 people confirmed dead at the time of writing.
The heat has caused deaths almost everywhere it has struck. Flooding killed at least 220 people in Japan earlier this month, and the following heatwave left 35,000 people hospitalised. Wildfires have blazed across the United States, with numerous people killed and California once again particularly hard-hit. A heatwave in Quebec, Canada, left more than 50 people dead. A new temperature record for the continent of Africa was set at 51C.
On a quieter level, the heat is predicted to increase global food prices due to crop failures, increase the rate at which the Arctic is melting, and possibly even cause tsunamis in Norway as the permafrost melts extremely quickly in autumn rains, threatening to leave the mountains falling away in huge chunks.
The future is here: climate change is happening in our cities, our farmland, our wilderness, our oceans, and our backyards.
What can we do?
To help the people who have been worst affected by this heatwave, the best thing you can do is donate to a local, reputable non-profit organisation. In every area that has been affected by these disasters, numerous charities and community groups are rallying to provide aid in whichever form is most needed. Do your research and donate what you can.
To help prevent extreme climate events like this, we need to tackle climate change quickly and effectively. One of the best-proven ways to decrease global temperatures is to increase global forestation. This involves both planting trees and maintaining existing forests. Here’s a handy list of ways you can help afforest the world:
- Plant trees. Obviously. That’s why we’re here! Click here to get involved in the Afforestation Project.
- Avoid products made with palm oil unless the palm oil is certifiably and provably sustainable.
- Cut down on your meat intake. Most meat is farmed on deforested land, and consuming less of it benefits the environment in myriad ways.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle – but also try to source recycled products, especially plant products such as paper and cardboard.
- Look for the FSC symbol on wood products. FSC-certified products are sustainably grown and harvested with respect for workers and indigenous peoples.
- Use your voice to stand up for the world’s forests: there are always people and companies looking to clear more land, and it’s up to us to speak up as individuals and as collectives to show our leaders that we care.