With the recent heatwave felt across the globe, it’s becoming quite clear that the effects of climate change are being felt more than ever. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres declared that we are in a new climate era: the era of global boiling.
The Era of Global Boiling
“All this is entirely consistent with predictions and repeated warnings. The only surprise is the speed of the change. Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.” – U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
In his declaration, Guterres added that, according to data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), July 2023 is set to be the hottest month on record. The month came with:
- Hottest three-week period ever recorded
- The three hottest days on record
- Highest-ever ocean temperatures for this time of year.
This rise in temperature is driven by the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which worsen existing weather extremes,
“The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is more urgent than ever before. Climate action is not a luxury, but a must,” says WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas
So who is to blame? Well, according to a recent report, we are.
Per the analysis, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, humans are responsible for making the heatwaves in Southern Europe, North America, and China 2.5C, 2C, and 1C hotter respectively. The report added that the first two would have been “virtually impossible” if people had not caused the changes to the climate.
But, Are We Really ‘Boiling?’
While Guterres’ speech helped generate attention toward addressing the climate crisis, is his wording accurate?
According to Sp!ked magazine’s chief political writer, Brendan O’Neill, if the Earth is not actually boiling, then we shouldn’t say that it is.
Piers Forster, a professor of climate physics and chair of Britain’s Climate Change Committee, told the Washington Post that while he understands Guterres’s choice to opt for sensational wording to try to get people’s attention, his comments aren’t scientifically sound,
“But I think some of what he’s saying now is beginning to depart from the underlying scientific evidence, and ultimately that begins to lose credibility over time. It just desensitizes us all.” Forster said.
Forster adds that while the changes are extreme, they are exactly in line with past predictions, “This is what we told people would occur 20 years ago, and it’s occurring.”
Suraje Dessai, a professor of climate change adaptation at Leeds University, seemed to agree with Guterres’s approach. Dessai told the Washington Post that “we probably need a diversity of ways of trying to communicate climate change to the public so that they can understand the urgency of this.”
That said, regardless of the terms Guterres decides to use, the reality is that we are in the midst of a serious climate crisis.
Boiling Felt Across The Globe
“For vast parts of North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, it is a cruel summer. For the entire planet, it is a disaster.” – U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
El Niño—a climate pattern associated with warmer temperatures—returned for the first time in four years. Coupled with elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions, this has created extreme weather events:
- Earlier this month, Phoenix, Arizona broke a 1974 record for the consecutive number of days the temperature has reached over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
- President Joe Biden referred to the heatwave as the “number one weather-related killer” in the US, responsible for 600 deaths every year. Biden then announced moves to bolster heat-related safety rules for workers.
- Over 30 people have died in wildfires in the mountainous region of Algeria, and 1500 people have been evacuated from their homes.
- In Sicily, two people were found dead in a home burned by a wildfire.
- In Greece, the country experienced its biggest evacuation effort in recent years as over 20,000 people were forced to leave their homes and hotels.
Rising temperatures also create a health crisis as heatwaves are the deadliest of all climate-driven disasters, contributing to over 61,000 deaths in Europe alone last year, with these deaths being among the most vulnerable groups like the elderly and children.
Reducing The Boiling Planet
“The air is unbreathable, the heat is unbearable, and the level of fossil fuel profits and climate inaction is unacceptable. Leaders must lead. No more hesitancy, no more excuses, no more waiting for others to move first. There is simply no more time for that.” – U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
This November, world leaders are meeting in the United Arab Emirates for the 28th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28). Guterres wants them to remember that it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C and avoid the very worst of climate change. Yet, this will only happen with dramatic and immediate climate action.
Guterres also spoke of developed countries’ commitment to not only provide $100 billion per year in climate support to developing countries but to also achieve carbon neutrality as close to 2040 as possible,
“And we must reach net zero electricity by 2035 in developed countries and 2040 elsewhere, as we work to bring affordable electricity to everyone on Earth,” the secretary-general noted.
What can I do?
Extreme weather is a serious crisis for both humans and the planet. Yet, here are 5 personal habits that you can adopt to help both:
- Put pressure on governments and businesses to reduce emissions. Also, make sure they support political parties that have clear net zero policies and strategies.
- Eat a planet-friendly diet, making sure to eat more vegetables and fruits.
- Reduce consumption of red meat, as beef production does increase global warming due to the gases they omit.
- Reduce your use of single-use plastic and become more energy conscious at home.
- Avoid fast fashion and instead, opt for thrift shopping.
Ballester, J., Quijal-Zamorano, M., Méndez Turrubiates, R.F. et al. Heat-related mortality in Europe during the summer of 2022. Nat Med 29, 1857–1866 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-023-02419-z