“If the disasters we’re seeing this month aren’t enough to shake us out of that torpor, then the chances of our persevering for another hundred and twenty-five thousand years seem remote.”
Southern Europe faced dangerously high temperatures on Sunday amid a continent-wide heatwave that’s expected to get worse in the coming days, potentially shattering longstanding records as the climate crisis rages.
Reuters reported that a “new anticyclone dubbed Charon, who in Greek mythology was the ferryman of the dead, pushed into the region from north Africa on Sunday and could lift temperatures above 45°C (113°F) in parts of Italy early this week,” prompting Italian officials to issue heat advisories for more than a dozen cities on Sunday.
Meteo.it, Italy’s weather news service, said Sunday that the country must “prepare for a severe heat storm that, day after day, will blanket the whole country.”
“In some places,” the service added, “ancient heat records will be broken.”
The fastest-warming continent on the planet, Europe has been facing scorching heat over the past several weeks as scientists warn that the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis is making such heatwaves more likely and increasingly intense. Last summer was Europe’s hottest season on record, and extreme heat killed more than 61,000 people on the continent between late May to early September of 2022.
But the current heatwave appears on track to be even more severe than last summer’s.
As CNN reported Sunday, “Climate scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) say temperatures could reach 48°C (118.4°F) on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, ‘potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.'”
“The ESA warned that Europe’s heat wave has only just begun with Spain, France, Germany, and Poland expected to see extreme weather, just as the continent welcomes what is expected to be a record-breaking number of tourists coming for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic,” the outlet added.
Giulio Betti, an Italian meteorologist and climate expert, told the BBC that “temperatures will reach a peak between 19 and 23 July—not only in Italy but also in Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans.”
“Several local heat records within these areas may well be broken during those days,” Betti added.
Saturday was another sweltering day across southern Europe. The intense heat stretched into Germany, although the highest temperature was again in Turkey at 44C, the July average being 32C. pic.twitter.com/BX62yNFHxW— BBC Weather (@bbcweather) July 16, 2023
Large swaths of the U.S., Asia, and Africa have experienced sweltering temperatures and other extreme weather—including deadly flooding—in recent weeks, heightening the urgency of coordinated climate action at the upcoming COP28 conference in the United Arab Emirates.
“It was probably the Earth’s hottest week in history earlier this month, following the warmest June on record, and top scientists agree that the planet will get even hotter unless we phase out fossil fuels,” The Guardian‘s Dharna Noor wrote Sunday. “Yet leading energy companies are intent on pushing the world in the opposite direction, expanding fossil fuel production and insisting that there is no alternative. It is evidence that they are motivated not by record warming, but by record profits, experts say.”
In February, after reporting a record-shattering $28 billion in 2022 profits, the London-based oil giant BP announced that it was walking back its emission-reduction goals and planning to produce more fossil fuels than expected.
In a New Yorker column on Sunday, author and climate advocate Bill McKibben noted that the BBC aired an interview with Shell CEO Wael Sawan on July 6, the day scientists believe may have been the hottest on record.
During the interview, Sawan claimed that cutting oil and gas production would be “dangerous and irresponsible,” drawing swift backlash.
McKibben noted that Sawan “told the BBC that, while there are not currently any plans, Shell wouldn’t rule out moving its headquarters from the United Kingdom to the United States, where oil companies get higher market prices for their shares.”
“This suggested to him that the U.S. is more supportive of oil and gas companies, and, as he has told investors, he wants to ‘reward our shareholders today and far into the future,'” McKibben added. “That is pretty much the definition of ‘business as usual,’ and it’s precisely what has generated this completely unprecedented heat. If the disasters we’re seeing this month aren’t enough to shake us out of that torpor, then the chances of our persevering for another hundred and twenty-five thousand years seem remote.”
This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).