Review of the year 2018

Heatwaves and hothouses: Did 2018 provide the wake-up call we needed in the fight against climate change?

Many will hail this year as a milestone in global warming awareness – but as Josh Gabbatiss explains, warnings need to be translated into action or they will be worthless

Friday 21 December 2018 10:39
Vanishing act: ice blocks crash into the sea on the Alaskan coast
Vanishing act: ice blocks crash into the sea on the Alaskan coast

This year was full of apparent wake-up calls. The first came over the summer when a heatwave swept the northern hemisphere, setting parts of the Swedish Arctic ablaze and pushing Europe close to its hottest temperature on record. While many in the UK welcomed the endless weeks of sunshine, there was a dawning sense that it was a little unusual. Even newspapers not normally associated with cutting-edge climate science seemed grudgingly to acknowledge a possible link to global warming.

To be clear, weather is not climate. When Donald Trump tweeted in 2013 that he was “in Los Angeles and it’s freezing”, that did not merit his conclusion that global warming is a hoax. It was December after all. But climate certainly does affect weather.

Over the last couple of years, scientists have become increasingly confident in identifying the “fingerprints” of climate change on extreme events, from the UK heatwave to hurricanes striking Texas, and flooding in India.

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