2023•07•12 Bonn, Germany
The World Meteorological Organization released data that confirms we recently experienced the hottest three-month period ever recorded globally, with July temperatures soaring to new heights. Rising temperatures have led to increased and longer heatwaves as part of the ongoing climate crisis. Here are five facts on rising temperatures and heat:
The greenhouse effect traps heat in the atmosphere, acting like a blanket that causes the Earth to heat up. This is a natural phenomenon that is intensified by human activities such as the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, leading to global warming. Additionally, deforestation releases the carbon stored in trees and soil and reduces the Earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
Being exposed to heat increases the likelihood of heat-related illnesses and fatalities, particularly among vulnerable populations such as the elderly, young children and those with pre-existing health conditions. For instance, according to the WMO, during the summer of 2022, extreme heat caused many excess deaths as a result of heat-related stress in Europe alone.
The effects of rising temperatures are not limited to humans, but also impact wildlife and ecosystems. Animals also struggle to cope with heat, and their habitats can suffer damage or disappear. In turn, this can cause species to migrate to other areas or even go extinct, resulting in biodiversity loss.
As increasing temperatures have been linked to drastic weather pattern changes, they create more frequent and intense heatwaves and droughts. Heatwaves increase the risk of wildfires, as higher temperatures, when combined with dry conditions, and strong winds create favorable conditions for extreme wildfires, which pose a dangerous threat to forests, homes, and livelihoods.
Rising temperatures continue to impact agricultural yield, worsen water shortages, and trigger social and economic challenges. Such consequences highlight the need for urgent global climate action.