Climate Change

What Europe saw this summer may just become the norm by 2035, hints study

World must mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis along three axes: reduce, remove and repair, say experts

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Friday 02 September 2022
Photo: @NFUtweets / Twitter

The record-breaking heatwave across Europe in July and early August would be considered as ‘normal summer’ by 2035, according to data from the United Kingdom Met Agency’s Hadley Centre.

The data has been commissioned by the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG), an independent group of experts which reflects a wide range of academic disciplines and indigenous knowledge, comprising 16 experts from 11 countries.

The glaring aspect of the prediction is that this scenario would ensue even if all the counties meet their emission reduction commitments known as nationally determined contributions (NDC) under the 2015 Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Hadley Centre looked at how quickly temperatures are changing across Europe and compared observed mean summer temperatures since 1850 to climate model predictions. The two sets of data agree in most part.

“This gives us all confidence in the accuracy of the model itself and puts to bed any doubts about the usefulness of these very powerful and detailed models,” CCAG said in a statement.

The research team plotted and extrapolated the graph between observations and model predictions and found that by 2100, a normal summer in central Europe would be four degrees Celsius warmer on average than the pre-industrial era, generally considered to be between 1850 and 1900.

The people of Europe would have to adapt to the extreme heat stress they countered this year becoming an annual normal affair in just 13 years.

The 2022 heat waves in at least 19 countries of Europe consequently have led to drying up of major rivers and ongoing drought conditions in many of them. This has affected lives and livelihoods of people and caused immeasurable damage to biodiversity in many places because of the unbearable heat, resultant wildfires and lack of water.

“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, a professor at the Hadley Centre, as part of the CCAG statement.

Source: CCAG

Another important aspect not clearly accounted for in the data is the rapid warming of the Arctic region which will further exacerbate such events in the future. It had a part to play in the occurrence of heatwaves in Europe along with at least three other continents in July and early August 2022.

The Arctic jet stream is becoming wavier due to the warming of the Arctic and this is leading to the setting up of Rossby waves in the jet stream which keep the winds blocked in one place, leading to extreme weather such as heatwaves or floods.

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

He further added that “one thing is abundantly clear that countries across the world must not only meet their NDCs, but voluntarily look to increase them. The time for ambitious, urgent action is now.

It is only through the mitigative measures of Reduce, Remove and Repair, pursued with equal vigour and urgency that we can hope to move away from the path to disaster we are currently set on and achieve a manageable future for humanity.”

The CCAG argues for mitigation and adaptation to the climate crisis along three axes: reduce, remove and repair. They entail the following:

Reduce emissions urgently, deeply and rapidly, while ensuring an orderly, just transition.

Remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in vast quantities to reduce the total from today, in excess of 500 ppm, to less than 350 ppm.

Repair broken parts of the climate system, starting with the Arctic; to create a manageable future we must refreeze the Arctic Ocean which has already warmed to 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels and is exacerbating extreme weather events around the world. The third ‘R’ is needed to buy time for us all to complete the actions on the first two.

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