Firefighters are battling a fire at a recycling plant in Sesklo, central Greece. This incident highlights the devastation caused by the extreme heatwaves experienced during the summer months of 2023. According to a recently published peer-reviewed research report, nearly all of the world’s population experienced higher temperatures from June to August due to human-induced climate change. The northern hemisphere summer of 2023 was the hottest on record, with prolonged heatwaves in North America and southern Europe leading to catastrophic wildfires and increased mortality rates. July was particularly notable, being the hottest month ever recorded. In addition, average August temperatures were 1.5 Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.
A study conducted by Climate Central, a U.S.-based research group, examined temperatures in 180 countries and 22 territories. The findings revealed that 98% of the global population were exposed to higher temperatures that were made at least twice more likely by carbon dioxide pollution. Andrew Pershing, Climate Central’s vice president for science, stated that “virtually no one on Earth escaped the influence of global warming during the past three months.” This influence was observed across all countries, including the typically cooler southern hemisphere during its winter season. Pershing added that temperatures were reaching levels that would be difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible, without human-induced climate change.
Climate Central determines the likelihood of heat events being influenced by climate change by comparing observed temperatures with those produced by models that eliminate the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. The research group found that as many as 6.2 billion people experienced at least one day of average temperatures that were at least five times more likely due to climate change. This represents the maximum value in Climate Central’s Climate Shift Index. Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, emphasized that the heatwaves in North America and southern Europe would not have been possible without climate change. She explained that these heatwaves have not simply been made five times more likely; they have been made infinitely more likely because they would not have occurred without the influence of climate change.
This research report highlights the significant impact of human-induced climate change on global temperatures. With record-breaking heatwaves causing devastating consequences such as wildfires and increased mortality rates, urgent action is required to mitigate the effects of climate change and limit further harm to both the environment and human populations.