Record-breaking heatwave will be an average summer by 2023, new data shows

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The analysis by the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, commissioned by the country’s Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG), looked at how quickly temperatures are changing across the region using historical records of mean summer temperatures since 1850, and comparing them against model predictions.

Taking a longer-term view, the analysis found that an average summer in central Europe by 2100 would be more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than it was in the pre-industrial era. Scientists now say that all heat waves bear the fingerprints of human-induced climate change, caused primarily by burning fossil fuels.

“This data serves as an urgent reminder of the need for countries to go well beyond their nationally determined contributions so far pledged under the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to under 1.5°C if possible,” said the CCAG in the release.

Nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, lay out each countries’ planned emissions cuts in order to reach the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2C, or 1.5C if possible.

The UK set an all-time national temperature record in July after it exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time. Other local records were broken in parts of Spain, Portugal and France, which have also been battling wildfires as both heat and drought leave forests and grasslands tinderbox dry.

“In the aftermath of the 2003 European heatwave, which is estimated to have killed over 70,000 people, I predicted that such temperatures, so exceptional at the time, would become the norm under continued emissions. That prediction has now been realized,” said Peter Stott from the Met Office Hadley Centre. “The risks of extreme weather, including fires, drought and flash floods, will keep increasing rapidly unless emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced substantially.”

Paris Agreement pledges fall short

The new findings were published just over two months ahead of the COP27 international climate talks in Egypt. Countries last year agreed to align their emissions plans with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C by the end of COP27.

An analysis by the Climate Action Tracker last year found that none of the world’s major economies — including the entire G20 — had a plan that met their obligations under the Paris Agreement. Some countries have put forward more ambitious plans since then.

Women fighting the heat in Seville, Spain on June 13, 2022.

To contain global warming, the CCAG is arguing for countries to reduce emissions “urgently, deeply and rapidly”; to remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere in “vast quantities to reduce the total from today”; and to “buy time” to complete those two.

To do that, the committee said the world should repair broken parts of the climate system, starting with the Artic.

It added that “to create a manageable future we must refreeze the Arctic Ocean which has already warmed to 3.5C above the pre-industrial levels and is exacerbating the extreme weather events around the world.”

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CCAG Chair David King said in a statement that the science was clear that extreme weather is “at least in large part a consequence of human-induced climate change.”

“The data released by the Met Office today shows that, even if countries meet their commitments to reduce emissions they have made so far, the situation is still set to get worse, with weather in Europe predicted to become even more extreme than seen this summer,” he said.

“This data doesn’t fully account for the instability of the Arctic, which we now know is a global tipping point which that could have major cascading consequences for the entire planet.”

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