How serious is climate change?

Reading numerous scientific reports or attending in-depth summits on climate change is all well and good, but it’s the stark and brutal reality of the way in which a warming planet is affecting livelihoods and national economies that really rams the issue home.

This week, several large wildfires have taken hold in central Portugal and western Spain as extreme temperatures continue to blight the continent. Indeed, as we report, meteorologists expect that temperatures could reach record highs this week, likely stoking more blazes: the World Meteorological Organisation warned the heatwave was spreading and intensifying in large parts of Europe

Nearly all of mainland Portugal was on red alert for extreme heat conditions, with the temperature in the central Santarem district northeast of Lisbon expected to hit 46 degrees Celsius (114.8°F), the IPMA weather institute said.

Meanwhile in China, its most populous city, Shanghai, has issued its highest alert for extreme heat as soaring temperatures once tested records this week.

The commercial and industrial hub of 25 million people declared a red alert on Thursday (14 July), warning of expected temperatures of at least 40 degrees C (104 F). The highest of a three-tier colour-coded warning system, it requires construction and other outdoor work to be reduced or halted.

And the economic cost of a changing climate continues to mount: the year so far has brought nine separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters to the United States, including tornado outbreaks, damaging hail and extreme drought.

In its latest climate report, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) says that June kicked off a very warm and dry start to meteorological summer for the US, according to experts from its National Centers for Environmental Information.

The nine individual billion-dollar events of 2022 include: three general severe weather events, two tornado outbreaks, two hail storms, a derecho event and a broad-area drought event. For this year-to-date period, the 2022 disaster count ranks fifth-highest behind 2017, 2020, 2011 and 2021.

Ok, some may still argue that these events are not related to a changing climate. I disagree. How serious is climate change? Very. Is it too late to tackle properly? No, but we are running out of time.

Marcus Alcock

Editor, Emerging Risks