This week, the UK recorded a temperature of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country, the highest ever recorded. This comes as the world struggles to face the climate crisis with record-breaking heatwaves and an energy crisis amplified by the war in Ukraine.
For a week, Europe has been blanketed by hot air flowing from North Africa, producing heatwaves and wildfires in Spain, France, and the UK. These sweltering summers are caused by a mixture of meteorological events and rising temperatures due to climate change.
The heat brought the UK to a standstill on Tuesday. Roads, railways and runways melted under extreme temperatures triggering transport delays and a scramble to repair damaged infrastructure.
Emergency services were also struggling, as firefighters saw their busiest day in London since the second world war. Fire brigades declared “major incidents” as fires ravaged neighborhoods burning houses, businesses, schools, and churches. According to the London fire service, 16 firemen were injured.
The lack of readiness displayed during the heatwave exposed the fragility of Britain’s infrastructure and emergency services in the face of a climate-related incident. Decades of underfunded social care and lack of attention given to the climate crisis have made the country dismally unprepared to face a rise in temperatures.
Last week, the Green Party of the UK released a statement warning about the lack of government action to face the climate crisis, with the party co-leader Adrian Ramsay warning that:
“We need urgent action to ensure our infrastructure is resilient to extreme weather events. It goes without saying that we seek much more urgent reduction in CO2 emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown, but we’ve left this far too late already and the extreme weather is now built in.”
With climate-related events increasing in number and intensity every year, overwhelmingly affecting vulnerable populations, the party co-leader also added that the government “must urgently assess how vulnerable people are supported during extreme weather events – not just heat-waves but also storms and flooding. It should also investigate immediately where our infrastructure and services are at risk during such severe weather.”.
The rise of energy and food prices, along with heatwaves occurring across the globe and, most of all, the lack of serious action to confront the climate crisis, have created extreme human suffering, especially in underdeveloped communities. These factors have governments around the world searching desperately for solutions.
In Europe, the heatwaves, which have also increased energy demand, come at a time when the continent is already facing an energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine. With the rising temperatures and energy being used as a geopolitical weapon by Russia, the EU is preparing the bloc for a possible Russian gas cut-off in winter by asking its members to reduce their gas use by 15%.
In China, the world’s largest emitter of planet warming gases, the government asked factories to use less electricity as extreme heatwaves damaged critical infrastructure and pushed people to underground air raid shelters.
Similarly, unusually long and intense heatwaves in India and Pakistan have killed 90 people and caused flooding due to glaciers melting in the nearby Himalayas. Scientists have attributed the severe heat to climate change, and now heatwaves are 30 times more likely in South Asia.
Comparably, the United States is also facing extreme temperatures, with the National Weather Service issuing heat warnings and advisories in 28 States. This comes as climate-change legislation collapsed in Washington with no prospect of bipartisan consensus in the near future.