As extreme temperatures continue to kill lives and damage property in countries around the world, scientists said on Tuesday that July’s heat waves were caused by human activities – which are the driving force behind climate change.
In July, hot weather was on record in many countries including China, India, the US, Canada and southern European countries, some of which saw deadly wildfires spread across thousands of acres and burn record areas of land.
Many people were also admitted to the hospital due to heatstroke conditions.
Over the weekend, thousands of tourists were evacuated from the Greek island of Rhodes to escape wildfires caused by record-breaking heat.
“Without human-induced climate change, this month’s events would have been extremely rare,” according to a study by World Weather Attribution, a global team of scientists researching climate change and its effects on extreme weather.
“European and North American warming would have been almost impossible without the effects of climate change,” said Izidine Pinto of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, one of the study’s authors.
“In China, it was about 50 times more likely to happen than in the past.”
The World Weather Attribution Team estimated that rising greenhouse gas concentrations made the European heatwave 2.5 Celsius (4.5 Fahrenheit) warmer than it would have been otherwise. They increased the North American heatwave by 2C and in China by 1C.
The scientists said: “As well as directly impacting human health, the heat has caused widespread crop damage and livestock losses, with US corn and soybean crops, Mexican cattle, southern European olives as well as Chinese cotton all severely affected.”
He added: “El Niño probably contributed to the excess heat in some regions, but rising greenhouse gases were the dominant factor and heatwaves will likely increase if emissions are not cut.”
According to their estimates, if the average global temperature rises 2C above pre-industrial levels, a prolonged period of extreme heat is likely to occur every two to five years.
The average temperature is currently projected to increase by more than 1.1C.
“The events we observed are not rare in today’s climate,” Friedrich Otto, a scientist at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change in London, told reporters.
“It is not surprising from a climate science perspective that these events are happening at the same time.”
“As long as we keep burning fossil fuels, we will see more of these extreme conditions,” he said.
“I don’t think any science has produced any strong evidence for any scientific question.”