Ex­treme weather is mak­ing cli­mate change harder and harder to deny

The Sligo Champion - - OPINION -

FOR years cli­mate change de­niers have flown in the face of sci­en­tific re­search and re­peat­edly mocked warn­ings about earth’s chang­ing cli­mate.

While many still sub­scribe to the de­niers’ fre­quently lu­di­crous claims the ex­treme weather we have wit­nessed in the re­cent weeks, months and years is prov­ing enor­mously dam­ag­ing to their ar­gu­ment.

The re­cent heat­wave across Ire­land and the rest of Europe is just one ex­am­ple of the more and more ex­treme weather that we have been see­ing more com­monly across the world in the last two decades.

While re­cent heat­wave didn’t have the same lethal im­pact as the heat­wave that scorched Europe in Au­gust 2003. That month Europe baked in the high­est tem­per­a­tures recorded on the con­ti­nent since 1540 and an es­ti­mated 15,000 to 20,000 peo­ple lost their lives in heat re­lated deaths.

Of course the re­cent heat wave has not been with­out tragedy and loss of life. Hun­dreds have died across Europe with the worst in­ci­dent un­fold­ing in Greece where over 80 peo­ple lost their lives in a ter­ri­fy­ing in­ferno.

That fire wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily caused by the heat­wave, it is now thought that ar­son­ists may have started the lethal fire, but Greek au­thor­i­ties say the dry con­di­tions made the fire much worse, helped it spread ex­tremely quickly and made it far harder to com­bat.

Across Europe there have been other dra­matic ex­am­ples of the heat­wave’s im­pact. Mas­sive wild­fires were ex­pe­ri­enced in the UK and Swe­den; in Ger­many an air­port’s run­way buck­led and across the con­ti­nent rail­way tracks have been warped.

Mean­while the ef­fects of the drought – vis­i­ble from space in satel­lite pho­tos – has left Europe look­ing scorched and brown with farm­ers across the con­ti­nent strug­gling to sur­vive.

It’s not just Europe ei­ther.

In Ja­pan the Gov­ern­ment have de­clared a na­tional emer­gency as the coun­try ex­pe­ri­ences the high­est tem­per­a­tures it has ever seen. 65 peo­ple have died and 22,000 have been hos­pi­talised with heat stroke in a coun­try which is well used to high tem­per­a­tures.

In Africa – famed for its of­ten un­remit­ting heat – the fourth high­est June tem­per­a­tures recorded since 1910 have been ex­pe­ri­enced. Mean­while 11 wild­fires are still rag­ing in the Arc­tic cir­cle.

Heat isn’t the only prob­lem. The po­si­tion of the west to east At­lantic Jet Stream, which plays a huge role in de­ter­min­ing Europe’s weather, has seen Ice­land bat­tered by un­sea­sonal storms that would nor­mally hap­pen much far­ther south and over the ocean.

It sim­ply can­not be de­nied that the weather in the last two decades has be­come more ex­treme.

In Ire­land alone we have had three bor­der­line arc­tic win­ters and ex­pe­ri­enced dozens of ex­treme wind storms.

It will be many years be­fore these events can be defini­tively be linked to cli­mate change. But it is hard to imag­ine that cli­mate change hasn’t played a part. We have to start treat­ing cli­mate change se­ri­ously. Maybe this wild, weird weather will help.

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