Europe heat signals need for climate action - GulfToday

Europe heat signals need for climate action


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

This year is on track to be among the hottest ever and that would make 2015-2019 the world’s hottest five-year period on record, as per the World Meteorological Organization, and yet it is shocking that world leaders have failed to recognise the urgency of addressing climate change as a main priority.

The warning signals are in the air.

Europe is sweltering in an early summer heat wave that has already caused several deaths across the continent, mainly among the elderly.

The temperature in France surpassed 45 degrees Celsius for the first time on record on Friday. The new record makes France just the seventh European country to have recorded a plus 45 degrees Celsius temperature, along with Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and North Macedonia.

Germany experienced temperatures more than four degrees higher in June than the average during an international reference period for tracking climate change.

The roasting temperatures have also caused air quality to nosedive in some European cities, prompting local authorities to take anti-pollution measures. In Paris, Lyon and Marseille, for example, authorities have banned the most polluting cars from the roads in recent days.

Youngsters too are turning victims. A 17-year-old harvest worker died from heat stroke in Spain in the first known death related to the heat wave. It is stated that the youth suddenly felt dizzy and took a dip in a swimming pool but suffered convulsions when he got out and collapsed.

In the world’s second most populous nation, India, more than 450,000 people have signed two petitions demanding that the government declare a climate emergency as severe heat waves and crippling water shortages have gripped the country.

Just last week, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, warned that climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of development, global health and poverty reduction. He cited the risk of a new era of “climate apartheid” where the rich buy their way out of rising heat and hunger.

His contention that climate change will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable that could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 deserves serious attention of the world community and prompt remedial action.

Sadly, states are failing to meet their carbon emissions reduction and climate financing commitments and continue to subsidise the fossil fuel industry with $5.2 trillion per year.

There are enough alarm bells ringing over climate change. The heat waves in Europe, drought and storms in Africa, melting glaciers, bleaching corals, the Arctic ice melting — do we need to add more?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report spells out that by the end of the 21st century temperatures must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, not enough is being done to achieve that.

Climate change has become a top public concern in Germany, with the Greens party shooting up to poll neck-and-neck with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives for the first time in recent weeks.

Demonstrators formed a human chain to symbolically lock politicians in the German parliament building in Berlin on Friday, as calls by schoolchildren for climate action continued into the capital’s summer holiday.

Launched by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, “Fridays for Future” has seen pupils “strike” against school teaching each Friday for months across Europe.

Indications are that awareness is growing, but what is needed is concrete remedial action by world leaders. And that, without any further delay.

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