Heatwaves a deadly reminder for world to act on climate change
- Dozens have perished amid record temperatures in parts of Canada and the United States, while countries elsewhere swelter
- Weather extremes will only worsen if global leaders do not take the issue more seriously
Summer is little more than a month old in the northern hemisphere and temperature records are already tumbling. An unprecedented heatwave has killed dozens of people in western Canada and the northwestern United States.
Unless the world dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions by turning to cleaner sources of energy, what some are referring to as a “new normal” could escalate into something far worse.
The Canadian province of British Columbia and American states of Oregon and Washington last week broiled in never before experienced temperatures of up to 49.5 degrees Celsius.
Residents have been shocked and frightened; the regional climate is usually temperate this time of year.
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But they are not alone in suffering extremes, with the unusual highs causing sinkholes to emerge in central Alaska, the melting of layers of permafrost in Siberia and further south, and the mercury to soar beyond 50 degrees in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
Records are also being set in Hong Kong and elsewhere in southern China; the city experienced its hottest spring from March to May.
China aims to be carbon neutral before 2060 and is a world leader in clean energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles. As the biggest global emitter of carbon dioxide, it has much to do to reach its goals.
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But so, too, does the developed world, as shown when the Group of Seven nations recently failed to agree to a timeline to end their use of coal for electricity.
The European Council on Monday adopted a law obliging its 27 members to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030. But the bloc can only do so much as it ranks third for carbon outflows behind the US and China.
Difficult debates on climate are bound to feature at meetings of the Group of 20 major economies in Italy in coming months. Until the world works closer and takes the issue more seriously, it has to expect a greater frequency and worsening of weather extremes.