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HomeNewsWarmth wave sweeps world. Does that create local weather urgency?

Warmth wave sweeps world. Does that create local weather urgency?


The Northern Hemisphere is hot this week. Very hot. In London, temperatures climbed above 104 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in recorded history. It was enough to melt the runway at a British air force base. In southwestern France, wildfires rampaged. In Portugal, the health ministry attributed 700 deaths to heat.

That doesn’t count searing temperatures from the United States to China. Scientists are unequivocal in saying that climate change has made heat waves like this one much more likely, and hotter, in a way they say will increase as long as greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere keep rising.

Why We Wrote This

Heat waves make global warming tangible. But do they change mindsets? As people balance their political priorities, it’s still hard for climate action to rise to the top.

But some also see a kernel of hope in the blistering heat. Among all extreme weather events, heat waves are the ones most likely to push people toward climate action, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and other researchers.

Still, when it comes to what academics call “relative saliency” – or the perceived importance of one issue compared to others – climate falls short in both the U.S. and Europe.

“We have multiple crises and challenges that are significant to people and politicians at the same time,” says Annika Hedberg of the European Policy Centre, a think tank based in Brussels.

Basel, Switzerland; and Northampton, Mass.

The Northern Hemisphere is hot this week. Very hot. 

In London, temperatures climbed above 104 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in recorded history. It was enough to melt the runway at a British air force base.

In southwestern France, wildfires fueled by the hot, dry weather burned through pine forests and forced the evacuation of some 14,000 residents. In Portugal, temperatures reached 117 F, and the Portuguese health ministry reported that this heat was responsible for some 700 deaths. Hundreds of people died in Spain’s heat wave, as well, according to officials there. 

Why We Wrote This

Heat waves make global warming tangible. But do they change mindsets? As people balance their political priorities, it’s still hard for climate action to rise to the top.

In the U.S., residents across the Great Plains braced for what meteorologists were predicting could be the hottest days anyone has ever experienced there, while in China, officials warned that temperatures of up to 107 F could last for 40 days in the southern part of the country.

All of this prompted United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to urge more concrete action on climate change, saying to international leaders in Berlin this week that the world could either take “collective action or collective suicide.”

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