Deadly fires have scorched swaths of the Northern Hemisphere this summer, from California to Arctic Sweden and down to Greece on the sunny Mediterranean. Drought in Europe has turned verdant land barren, while people in Japan and Korea are dying from record-breaking heat.
Climate change is here and is affecting the entire globe — not just the polar bears or tiny islands vulnerable to rising sea levels — scientists say. It is on the doorsteps of everyday Americans, Europeans and Asians, and the best evidence shows it will get much worse.
This summer, 119 people in Japan died in a heat wave, while29 were killed in South Korea, officials there say. Ninety-one people in Greece died in wildfires, and ongoing fires in California have taken at least eight lives. Spain and Portugal sweltered through an exceptionally hot weekend with a heat wave that haskilled three people in Spainand pushed temperatures toward record levels.
Remarkably, scientists can now work out in just a matter of days how much human-induced climate change has had to do with a particular weather event, using a combination of observation, historical data and current information from weather stations.
“The European heat wave was at least twice as likely to happen because of human intervention. Based on findings in Ireland it was double — and we know that with very high confidence — and based on data from all other weather stations it was more than double,” said Karsten Haustein from the World Weather Attribution Project, part of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.
Scientists have been able to use this kind of modeling for more than a decade, but improved technology now allows them to do it nearly in real time, letting people understand the links between what they are seeing and climate change.
Despite the deadly summer, overwhelming evidence that humans are altering the planet, and ever-improving science that links specific weather events to global warming, the international politics around the issue of climate change are in disarray. And there are alarming signs that the planet may be in worse shape than ever before.