Nearly every week a new record is being broken on climate.
So far this year we have had warnings that the Great Barrier reef is “dying on our watch” due to coral bleaching caused by record temperatures; dramatic early seasonal melting of the Arctic Ocean sea ice and Greenland’s massive ice sheet; devastating wild-fires in Canada which are being linked to climate change, and month after month of record temperatures.
And now a city in the north of India has registered the highest temperature ever recorded in the country at 51 C, during a chronic heatwave which has been going on for weeks. In nearby Pakistan, three cities recorded temperatures of 50 C or higher last Friday too.
The new Indian record, which breaks the previous one which was set sixty years ago in 1956, was set in the city of Phalodi, in the desert state of Rajasthan. It is the equivalent of 123.8F.
The heatwave is having a devastating effect and has caused the deaths of several hundred so far. Tens of thousands of farmers have also abandoned their land with crops devastated in 13 states. Rivers, lakes and even dams have dried up. Hundreds of farmers who have been left destitute have reportedly committed suicide.
Further south in Gujarat the sizzling temperatures are so bad that bats are falling lifeless from trees and pedestrians are getting their shoes stuck in the melting roads.
The Director General of the Indian Meteorological Association, Laxman Singh Rathore, has blamed climate change for the unprecedented temperatures: “It has been observed that since 2001, places in northern India, especially in Rajasthan, are witnessing a rising temperature trend every year.”
He added: “The main reason is the excessive use of energy and emission of carbon dioxide. Factors like urbanization and industrialization too have added to the global warming phenomenon. I think similar trend would be maintained in Rajasthan in coming days.”
The warnings have been getting stronger. Two months ago, Indian forecasters warned that heat waves are getting longer and more intense. Last year some 2,500 died from heat-related issues too.
And things are going to get worse.
As InsideClimate News reported last week about the annual greenhouse gas index released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not just rising, it’s accelerating”.
Last year, the average global concentration of CO2 increased to 399 parts per million, a record jump of almost 3 ppm from the year before.
Jim Butler, director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, said: “This isn’t a model. These are precise and accurate measurements, and they tell us about how humans are changing the balance of heat in the Earth system. We’re dialing up Earth’s thermostat in a way that will lock more heat into the ocean and atmosphere for thousands of years.”
And now scientists, writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, are predicting that we could heat up the earth by a totally unsustainable 10C, if and its a big if, all fossil fuels are burnt. The Arctic could heat up by some 20C within a couple of centuries.
It goes without saying that temperatures like these would cause massive destruction on an unprecedented scale.
“I think it is really important to know what would happen if we don’t take any action to mitigate climate change,” said Katarzyna Tokarska, at the University of Victoria in Canada, the lead author on the research. “Even though we have the Paris climate change agreement, so far there hasn’t been any action.”
Tokarska called the research “a warning message.”