In the latest sign the Earth is undergoing unprecedented warming, European scientists said Monday that July was the hottest month ever recorded.
“While July is usually the warmest month of the year for the globe, according to our data it also was the warmest month recorded globally, by a very small margin,” Jean-Noël Thépaut, head of the European Union’s CopernicusClimateChangeService, said in a statement.
Last week, citing the latest data, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres told reporters that the world is facing a “climate emergency.” He noted the July numbers were even more significant because the previous record-beating month, July 2016, occurred during one of the strongest El Nino’s on record. The weather phenomenon, which causes more storm systems to form, also tends to contribute to higher temperatures.
“We have always lived through hot summers,” Guterres said. “But this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer.”
In a news release, the scientists at Copernicus framed July’s heat against the goals outlined in the Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep the increase in global average temperatures less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels.
Even at that those increased temperatures, the effects on Earth’s environment would be dramatic, including rising sea levels and more frequent droughts and famines.
The July temperature was close to 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) above those in the preindustrial era. Since then, the Earth has warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Much of Europe baked in a brutal heat wave this summer. In Greenland, where temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees F above average, 10 billion tons of ice is melting into the ocean daily.
“This is exactly what the climate models predict,” said Daniel Kammen, a UC Berkeley professor who chairs the school’s Energy and Resources Group.
The state’s resident s are already seeing the impacts of global warming in more frequent and intense wildfires. Residents also have higher medical and energy costs as they use more air conditioning, Kammen says, and farmers are taking a hit as they attempt to cope with new weather conditions. The expense is mostly being shouldered by low-income people who can least afford it, said Kammen.
“We are seeing the social disruption right here in the Bay Area, not just some remote story about 122-degree days in India,” he said. “It is very close to home.”
Kammen says the new data underscores the importance of moving away from fossil fuels as an energy source, which would prevent the worst effects of climate change.
It can still be done, and California can contribute, he says. Already, officials have committed the state to renewable energy and climate-friendly policies such as the cap-and-trade system and a mandate for solar energy capability in the construction of new homes, Kammen says. But he thinks the state can do more, like building homes around mass transit and implementing farming techniques that use less fertilizer, pesticides and water.
And he wants to see “a realistic plan for the most car-intensive state in the nation to switch us all to electric and hydrogen vehicles. That has to be next on California’s agenda.”