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Heat waves and global warming: is there a link?

Margaux Seiller
In 2003, France went through one of the hottest moments of its climate history, and it is probable that we will live the same this week.
The temperatures are rising and could reach 40°C. This summer will undoubtedly be in France one of the hottest of the last 35 weeks. But is this sudden heat wave linked to global warming?

The situation today is that France has faced almost as many heat waves between 1947 and 2000 than since 2000.

The role of global warming
First, we have to say that this phenomenon is linked to a natural event. Indeed, because of a disruption of atmospheric circulation, especially disruption of cold stream linked to Northern Europe, heat is more likely to hit this part of the world which normally is cooled down thanks to this stream.
Some climatologists are extremely clear about the role of global warming in these heat waves. Because of intense human activities and their related emissions, summers will be hotter each year. For one additional degree of global warming, the temperature records tend to increase by two degrees.
Specialists are clear: the heat wave we are going through and the ones we will live in the future are the direct consequence of warming caused by GHG emissions linked to coal, oil, and gas combustion.
Studies, such as the World Weather Attribution,  also show that because of global warming, heat waves will be more frequent and intense. This study analyzed the current frequency of heat waves and heat waves over northern Europe and compared them with the rates expected in a climate without global warming (based on both historical analyses and computer models). The results show that global warming doubles the risk of heat waves in these regions.

A global phenomenon
The problem is evident in cities because there is less solidarity toward the vulnerable population. Moreover, cities suffer from what can be called “heat island effect”. Indeed, they gather a hotter temperature rise because of the use of polluting means of transportation and buildings which are keeping the heat in their structure and releasing it at night. This prevents the renewal of natural air. The intensive use of air conditioning also tends to rise the cities temperature as these installations generate heat outside of the buildings.
In addition, heat waves also cause damages to nature and agriculture, raising the number of drought or increasing forest fires, which also threatens human beings and biodiversity.

What could we expect in the future?
Heat waves will tend to intensify and last longer if we don’t reduce and balance our GHG emissions globally. Heat waves could start at the beginning of May and finish at the end of October, meaning that it would go far beyond the summertime. Global warming could result in increased temperatures of 4°C in 2071.

However, if the global environmental policy we are trying to promote is strictly implemented, the rise of heat waves could be much slower during the second part of our century.
We should also remember that Europe is not the hottest region on the planet. Other parts of the world are impacted by global warming going through more intense heatwaves, especially in South-East Asia or the Middle-East.
Finally  the greenhouse gases we release today, have a longer lifetime. We should anticipate and to learn how to adapt. Some solutions are possible, especially with the Paris Agreement which leads us to reduce our CO2 emissions to reach the level we had before the industrial revolution. However, we know that this will not be enough and we will have to go beyond these reductions.

Using carbon offsetting, in parallel with the GHG emission reduction, is the solution to reach the carbon neutrality and mitigate extreme climate-related phenomena. The creation of carbon sinks will immediately capture and offset the residual emissions we have in our atmosphere, as these threaten us more every day. This concrete solution is already available    and can accelerate our sustainable impact on the planet while also supporting local communities in the areas most affected by climate change. When we support the setup of carbon sinks we also contribute to local economies increasing employment and benefitting the surroundings. 

If you want to use such a solution and accelerate your sustainable impact against global warming, discover it on climateseed.com
Article written by Margaux Seiller