Half of world’s population suffered under climate crisis-fuelled extreme heat this year, research says

Researchers say ‘virtually no one’ escaped extreme heat this year as world’s poorest faced the worst brunt

Stuti Mishra
Friday 08 September 2023 05:11 BST
Hundreds dead in heatwave

Almost half of the world’s population was exposed to at least 30 days of extreme heat driven by the climate crisis between June and August, a new study has found.

Over 3.8 billion people across the world suffered extreme temperatures for over a month, while “nearly every living human” – around 98 per cent of the world – was exposed to extreme heat at least once between June and August 2023, an analysis released on Thursday by researchers from Climate Central showed.

The longest duration of extreme temperatures, approximately three months, was experienced by at least 1.5 billion people who were exposed to unusually high heat on each day over the period of June to August, the study says.

The research tried to assess the number of people who are now getting exposed to more and more extreme temperatures, using a peer-reviewed method called Climate Shift Index (CSI), to understand the increasing impact of the climate crisis.

“Virtually no one on Earth escaped the influence of global warming during the past three months,” Dr Andrew Pershing, vice president for science at Climate CentralI, said.

“In every country we could analyse, including the southern hemisphere where this is the coolest time of year, we saw temperatures that would be difficult – and in some cases nearly impossible – without human-caused climate change.”

“Carbon pollution is clearly responsible for this season’s record-setting heat,” he added.

As average global temperatures increase due to human-caused climate crisis, heatwaves around the world have become more brutal and longer, exposing more people to heat. On Wednesday, the United Nations confirmed that this summer was the “hottest ever” on record for humans in the northern hemisphere.

Now the analysis by Climate Central further confirms using attribution analysis of temperatures in 180 countries that these extreme temperatures in the northern hemisphere summer would have been “almost impossible” without the influence of carbon pollution caused by humans.

The analysis also shows that countries that felt the strongest effects of climate crisis have contributed the least to carbon pollution. Countries with the lowest emissions experienced three to four times more hot days with very strong climate fingerprints than the G20 countries, the world’s 20 biggest economies.

While the residents of G20 nations faced an average of 17 days with extreme temperatures driven by climate crisis during this period, the least developed countries of the world were exposed to 47 such days, while the small island developing states experienced a staggering 65 days with temperatures influenced by carbon pollution.

The researchers urged the G20 nations, who are meeting in Delhi this weekend, to put an end to fossil fuels responsible for carbon pollution driving these temperature extremes.

“As long as we continue burning fossil fuels and as long as these countries, the G20, are continuing to have policies that subsidise fossil fuels, these events will become more and more intense,” Dr Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said.

“We have to stop burning fossil fuels.”

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