Northwestern Heatwave: A Consequence of Climate Change
We have already observed some of the effects of climate change on our environment including shrunken glaciers, loss of sea ice, increasingly volatile weather, and much more. These phenomena are expected to continue for many years, especially if we stay on the same path we are currently on. The importance of reducing our carbon emissions through renewable sources and other sustainable solutions constantly increases.
As you may have heard this past June, parts of western Canada were hit with a severe heatwave. Many cities and towns in the pacific northwest experienced temperatures above 40°C (104°F). Previous temperature records were broken by numerous degrees: the village of Lytton, British Columbia broke the Canadian record as temperatures reached 49.6°C (121.3°F) on June 29. This was nearly 5 degrees higher than the previous record. Sadly, the extreme heat was one of the main causes of a wildfire that destroyed most of the village shortly after the record was set.
Unfortunately, the destruction of Lytton was not the only tragedy associated with this heatwave. Researchers have estimated that more than a billion coastal animals along the pacific northwest such as clams and sea stars have died because of the devastating temperatures. It doesn’t end there. The effects extend to humans as well. Early estimates of fatalities caused by the heatwave in Canada are well into the hundreds, and even more are expected once more precise estimates are made in the near future.
Heatwaves are one of the most dangerous natural disasters. This heatwave affected populations that were unaccustomed and unprepared for such high temperatures. For example, most homes did not even have access to air conditioning. This goes to show the severity of these natural disasters that we will be seeing more often as a result of global warming.
Ties to Climate Change
Yes, this heatwave was not a direct result of climate change. However, the two are very related. A recent report written by an international team of 27 climate scientists with the World Weather Attribution collaboration determined this phenomenon was in fact heavily related to climate change. They stated that the heatwave was 150 times more likely to occur because of global warming as a result of our greenhouse gas emissions. Although it was a very rare event, it would have been virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.
Other Effects of Climate Change
An event like this is not the only example of what climate change causes. There is a myriad of other consequences caused by or negatively influenced by climate change including, but not limited to:
- Rising maximum and minimum temperatures
- Rising ocean temperatures
- Rising sea levels
- An increase in precipitation
- More frequent and intense natural disasters
- Loss of biodiversity
As we have seen, climate change not only affects our planet. It can have significant adverse effects on our society as well. We are slowly heading towards uncharted territory that may have significant impacts to not only our planet’s heath, but our own health and well-being as well. Adaptation and mitigation are needed to prepare for such a future, while an accelerated transition to a more sustainable world could lead us into a safer one. Everyone is responsible for reducing their carbon footprint.