Climate change is the biggest environmental challenge of our time. It is already affecting our climate, agriculture and native ecosystems, and long predicted to increase our extreme weather incidents. Scientists say the global warming has contributed to on the scorching temperatures that have baked the UK and northern Europe for weeks.
Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece, and across the world, from North America to Japan. “This is the face of climate change,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, and one the world’s most eminent climate scientists. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.”
“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” he told the Guardian. “We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this (European) summer is a perfect example of that.”
“We are seeing our predictions come true,” he said. “As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action.”
The stalling of the northern hemisphere jet stream is being firmly linked to global warming, in particular to the rapid heating of the Arctic and resulting loss of sea ice. Prof Mann said that asking if climate change “causes” specific events is the wrong question: “The relevant question is: ‘Is climate change impacting these events and making them more extreme?’, and we can say with great confidence that it is.”
“The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,” said Friederike Otto, at the University of Oxford and part of the World Weather Attribution (WWA). “What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace, and in some cases, it already has,” she said. “So this is something that society can and should prepare for. But equally there is no doubt that we can and should constrain the increasing likelihood of all kinds of extreme weather events by restricting greenhouse gas emissions as sharply as possible.”
People are not the only species affected by climate change. Birds are said to be one of the worst affected by rapid climate warming, with effects being twice as strong in birds over mammals, as well as populations located outside of protected areas being more severely impacted. Species such as the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) in Germany and Senegal, pink-footed Geese in Canada (Anser brachyrhynchus) and black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) in Tanzania are just some of the species highlighted to be in population decline. Read more about the affect of climate change on birds here.