OPN Climate Change
While the planet is warming at an alarming rate, researchers predict that due to increasing emissions, the world may pass the 1.5C global warming threshold within five years Image Credit: Gulf News

Growing up, the only awareness I had of the environment was if it was good enough to go outside and play with my friends. There was no Greta Thunberg in our midst, as we busily engaged in running ourselves in the dirt and the fields. Thunberg, for those unaware, is a Swedish young activist who at the age of 15 rose to global fame with her crusade for environmental awareness and protection in the 21st century.

Today the average global level of atmospheric CO2 has reached a level not seen in millions of years, leading to concerns about its ominous impact. Scientists, worried at current trends are warning that 2023 could be the hottest year on record.

In many parts of the world that has proven to be a fact as countries across the globe are reporting extreme weather, with primarily the temperature index creeping upwards.

Just this past week, CNN reported that the planet’s average daily temperature ‘soared to highs unseen in modern records kept by two climate agencies in the US and Europe.’ Even for hard-core climate-change deniers, global warming is slowly becoming an undisputable fact.

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In the US, millions of residents are under threat of extreme heat waves this weekend with advisories being posted to roughly 100 million affected Americans living in areas where record-breaking heat was expected to continue into the new week.

The National Weather Service urged residents to “take the heat seriously and avoid time outdoors” adding that it was “potentially deadly to anyone without effective cooling and/or adequate hydration.”

Unlike the GCC where most of the homes and apartments are cooled by air conditioning, such is not the case in the US, and many homeowners particularly those in the Southwest are finding it very difficult to cope with these extreme climate conditions.

Sweltering temperatures all across

In some cities, air-conditioned casinos and halls and public pools have been opened to allow people free access to walk in and escape the heat. Those living in coastal areas find the cool waters off the beaches somewhat refreshing, but the respite is temporary. Emergency rooms have reported a massive rise in heat stroke victims across the southern states.

In Europe, the situation is not much different. While we in the Middle East have grown up with hot summer months, Europe had been more blessed in the past with cooler temperatures and many homes and institutions did not see the need for auxiliary cooling such as air conditioners. But no more! Sweltering temperatures across Europe and a lack of facilities pumping cold air have left many wanting.

Peter Stott, a science fellow in climate attribution at the UK’s Met Office said, “We were expecting to see more and more frequent heat waves and floods and droughts around the world. But it’s the intensity of some of those events that is a bit surprising.”

Warmest month on record

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said that last month, the world experienced its warmest June on record by a “substantial margin”.

China and India have not escaped the wrath of global warming either, with Beijing facing one of its most brutal heat waves on record, as temperatures soared past 40 degrees Celsius last week. Parts of north India have been struggling with unrelenting heat, with nearly half a million in the northeast affected by severe flooding leading to devastating landslides and resulting in many deaths.

A heat wave last summer in India and Pakistan was attributed to the Glacial Lake Outburst flood. This was made 30 times more likely by climate change.

Is it too late to reverse the trend? While some scientists are sceptical and offer gloomy prospects, others contend that with proper cooperation between nations in a global alliance to control pollution and resort to alternate forms of green energy, the tide of change could be controlled if not stopped altogether.

It would also take sacrifice from all of us as citizens of the world to conserve energy and ensure that we are all in tune with each other toward this cause.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena