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While we fry in a brutal heatwave, let's remember that climate change is all our fault

The Met Office predicts that 2019 will be one of the hottest years on record and that this July will be the hottest month. This will mean that 19 out of the 20 hottest years will have happened this century – a century that is only 19 years old

Gareth Redmond-King
Thursday 25 July 2019 12:13 BST
Broadstairs beach in Kent fills up as heatwave sweeps the UK

Here in the UK, we love to talk about the weather – in fact, we’re famous for it. We’re also prone to front pages and social media posts that celebrate a heatwave as great fun for all the family – “phew, what a scorcher!”

But right now, our temperatures are more than just chat and clickbait. For the second summer in a row, records are tumbling as the mercury climbs. Of course, lots of us enjoy basking in the rays – particularly when we’re on holiday, but tropical temperatures at home are another matter. These ever hotter and ever more frequent heatwaves are nothing to celebrate. In fact, they’re cause for alarm, because the climate crisis and climate change makes extreme weather events like these both likelier and more intense.

The world has witnessed too many climate firsts, and broken too many records of late. The Met Office predicts that 2019 will be one of the hottest years on record and that this July will be the hottest month. This will mean that 19 out of the 20 hottest years will have happened this century – a century that is only 19 years old.

This year has seen the climate crisis become a mainstream issue. Levels of public concern have never been higher, and recent polls suggest that approximately 70 per cent of the British public want urgent political action to tackle it. We have seen really encouraging progress and political promises. The UK has become the first major economy to commit to a target in line with 2015’s Paris climate agreement – net-zero climate emissions by 2050.

But we still need action. If we don’t act in the next few years – to make rapid and deep cuts to emissions, and to restore nature, then the weather we have previously called “extreme” will become normal. Bringing with it a very abnormal series of consequences for us, for our kids, and for future generations.

Humans and wildlife both suffer when nature suffers. One in six species will face extinction if we fail to act, and crop yields will fall in the worst-affected regions – hitting global food supplies, as well as lives and livelihoods in some of the poorest parts of the world. This, along with disease and water shortages, drives conflict, leading to increased migration and global uncertainty. Things are only going to get worse unless we move beyond words, and act.

Setting a target is the easy part. We now need our new prime minister to commit to the policies and investment to deliver the target, and end our contribution to this climate crisis as soon as possible.

We’ve seen some welcome news as he forms his government: climate minister, Claire Perry, will be appointed as president of the 2020 Climate Summit, the COP, if it comes to the UK.

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But we need this to be a top priority for all ministers, and we need a green spending review.

Only rapid, early action will ensure that we avoid climate breakdown, and save our planet, before it is too late.

Gareth Redmond-King is head of climate change at WWF

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