While mainstream media paints the record-breaking heatwave that has broiled Europe this summer as cause for a beach day or a pool party, we recognize it as what it is: another symptom of the climate emergency. This needs to be treated as any other disaster, as it comes with disastrous consequences.
Experts at the Met Office say there is “no doubt” climate change is playing a role in the increased temperatures across Europe this summer. Scientists have warned that the climate crisis is making summer heatwaves five times more likely and significantly more intense.
Hannah Cloke, a professor at Britain’s University of Reading, said, “An increase in heatwaves is one of the clearest impacts of climate change.”
The highest ever June temperatures were recorded in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Andorra, Luxembourg, France, Poland, and Germany. The heatwave in June has led to 15 heat-related deaths. This is even more troubling as most European homes do not have air conditioning.
Alarmingly, cities are particularly vulnerable in heatwaves because of a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect, in which concrete buildings and asphalt roads absorb heat during the day and emit it again at night, preventing the city from cooling.
After several cities in France broke previous temperature records this July, including Bordeaux, which hit 41.2C, the National Weather Service, Météo France, said Paris was likely to beat its all-time high of 40.4C, set in July 1947, with 42C. Amsterdam and Brussels’ city records are also expected to be beaten as the heatwave continues to ravage Europe.
Not only are these heatwaves affecting the natural surroundings that people rely on, but there have been disruptions to people’s travelling plans. Truly everyone, on every level is affected.
While in Europe this summer, we saw these climate consequences at a small family farm in Southern Poland. This 80 year-old couple grows the majority of the food they consume on their land, and was more than happy to share this farm-to-table harvest with the both of us. While enjoying this food, they shared their hardships with growing produce over the past few months in the heatwave. Numerous fruits and vegetables were not able to be harvested and many plants dried out due to intense heat. We saw this first hand while touring the land they have lived off of for years.
This is the climate crisis. Ordinary people’s lives will be altered due to environmental destruction. This will be the new normal as survival becomes increasingly dangerous.
A study published earlier this year by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich said the summer heatwave across northern Europe last year would have been “statistically impossible” without climate change driven by human activity. Last month, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said Europe’s five hottest summers since 1500 had all occurred in the 21st century – in 2002, 2003, 2010, 2016 and 2018. Monthly records were now falling five times as often as they would in a stable climate, the institute said, adding that this was “a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas.”
To those who are paying attention, this abnormality is incredibly frightening. There is no denying that this unbearable heat is due to the climate crisis, and disasters like this will only continue to become more prevalent and severe as temperatures skyrocket. However, people in power continue to disregard the signs of an uninhabitable Earth and do not treat it as the emergency that it is. It speaks volumes, that 16 year-old Greta Thunberg recognizes the solution to this existential threat while those in power continue to deprive us of a livable future.
“The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it: we have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases, and either we do that, or we don’t.”Greta Thunberg
This heatwave is just another warning sign. It is clear that if we want a livable future, we are going to have to take matters into our own hands. The world is not going to be saved by following the rules. It’s time to rebel.