Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 406, 7 July 2021

Heatwave: Canada, US, Europe, and Siberia scorched in record-breaking temperatures
Akriti Sharma

In the news
On 29 June, Lytton, a village in Northwest Canada recorded the country's highest-ever temperature of 49.6 degrees Celsius following which the authorities issued evacuation orders.

On 28 June, Portland recorded its highest ever temperature of 46.6 degrees Celsius. Similarly, on 27 June, Seattle recorded 42.2 degrees Celsius.

On 4 July, Finland's Lapland recorded 33.5 degrees Celsius which was its hottest day since 1914.

On 30 June, US President Joe Biden said: "Climate change is driving the dangerous confluence of extreme heat and prolonged drought. We're seeing wildfires of greater intensity that move with more speed and last well beyond traditional months, traditional months of the fire season," adding, "Right now we have to act and act fast. We're late in the game here."

On 2 July, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the situation caused by the heatwave was "unprecedented," adding, "Lives have been lost, and the risk of wildfires is at a dangerously high level."

Issues at large
First, the global increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. In the recent past, extreme weather events like cold waves, heatwaves, droughts, floods, cyclones, have been recurring with high frequency and intensity. From July 2020 to November 2020, the world witnessed 30 storms breaking all previous records. Similarly, wildfires across the US, Brazil, and Russia have been recurring each year, serving as an alarm for climate change.

Second, the global rise in temperature. On 1 July, the World Meteorological Organization announced that Antarctica had recorded its highest ever temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius. Polar regions have been witnessing a rise in the temperature resulting in glacier melt. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 was the second warmest year after 2016. At least 23 countries have recorded a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius in 2021.

Third, the cause of the heatwave in the US and Canada. A heat dome effect has been created over the high-pressure regions of Canada and the US, due to which the hot air is trapped over the region. The heat dome traps hot air for several days and nights, which causes a sudden increase in the temperature, which is higher than the average temperature. Extremely high temperatures have increased the risk of wildfires across the country. According to British Columbia Wildfire Service, 1,700 lightning strikes were recorded on 2 July 2021. Moreover, there has been a sudden increase in deaths over the past week. British Columbia Coroners Service has recorded 719 sudden deaths in the past week which is three times the normal deaths. Many emergency cooling centres have been put up across Vancouver and other cities to temporarily prevent people from health risks due to the heatwave.

In perspective
First, climate adaptation. Climate mitigation and adaptation should go hand in hand. Since extreme weather events are increasing globally, there is a need for more focus on climate adaptation measures. This would help in addressing the extreme weather events effectively and reduce the health risks due to climate change.

Second, the need for effective management of extreme weather events. Developing efficient early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, disaster risk management, sharing of information and resources should be stressed upon.

Third, the fingerprints of climate change. Such events serve as an alarm for the fact that climate change is real. Climate action is urgently needed. Even though the countries announce ambitious targets in the Paris Climate agreement, not much attention is paid to the fact whether the countries are domestically doing enough to meet the targets.

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