Nearly a century ago Irving Berlin wrote these words for his song:
“We’re having a heat wave!
A tropical heat wave
The temperature’s rising
It isn’t surprising . . .
Not so long ago heat waves, defined as three consecutive days of unusual heat, would hit North America approximately every twenty years. Now – unless the world significantly reduces GHG emissions – they will occur annually and in some places more often.
It is not just the increased frequency of heat waves that is a threat – scientists project maximum temperatures that could be between 3 ° and 5 ° C hotter than today’s normal.
Michael Wehner, senior staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explains the risk in these terms:
Imagine the hottest day you can remember, but instead of 42° it is 45 ° C. That’s going to impact the poor, the old and the very young, who are typically the ones dying in heat waves.
Some places on the planet could become uninhabitable. Residents of these places (who survive!) will add to the large number of climate change refugees. They will be forced to abandon their homes and migrate to countries where the heat is not as severe.
When will this situation emerge? The authors of the most recent survey suggest that heat waves of this severity could become annual events by 2075.
Scientists conclude there is time to avoid a large portion of these impacts. Provided we act now!
And if we don’t? As Christine Lagarde has said: . . .“we’ll all be fried, grilled, toasted and roasted.”