As Britain issued its first-ever “Red Extreme” heat warning, the highest-level alert, a leading climate scientist has said the country is ill-prepared for the record scorchers.
“The record high temperatures we’re expecting and experiencing is not surprising. Climate change is leading to changes in extreme temperatures, changes in the number of heat waves around the world,” Corinne Le Quere, professor of Climate Change Science at Britain’s University of East Anglia, told Xinhua on Friday.
“Britain is absolutely not prepared for this kind of extreme temperatures. The changes in climate are happening faster than actions are being taken to adapt society to changes,” said Le Quere, who has studied the interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle.
The Met Office of the United Kingdom, the country’s national weather service, said on Friday that “exceptional, perhaps record-breaking, temperatures are likely on Monday, then again on Tuesday.”
The highest temperature recorded in Britain so far was 38.7 degrees Celsius at Cambridge Botanic Garden in July 2019.
Le Quere said temperature above 34 degrees Celsius “is dangerous for what we call workability,” and “if the temperature goes above 40 degrees, then there’s dangerous for survivability.”
She said workplaces could protect employees by letting them stay in the shade and putting down the blinds to avoid intense sunlight.
Climate change has broader impacts on agriculture and is leading to other extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heavy rainfall and droughts, said Le Quere.
“A hotter, drier climate is more conducive to extreme wildfires and places where there are forests. And we’ve seen that emerging in particularly northern latitudes, and also in some parts of Australia and Africa,” she said, adding that measures should be adopted to make forests more resilient to change.
“It’s very unusual to have temperatures so high in Britain. This is part of a trend with climate change leading to more and more extreme peak temperatures. We are going to live with more of these until we tackle the climate change problem at the international level on a global scale,” the professor noted.
In response to the extreme temperatures, Britain needs to “put in place measures to adapt a lot faster than we are doing now,” Le Quere said, stressing the need to alert the public that climate change is underway.
“There are also changes we need to do in terms of responding to extreme temperatures in the working environment, guidance for what to do. We also need to introduce measures for having better building regulations that both reduce emissions of greenhouse gases which cause climate change but also allow for more comfortable temperatures in the summer,” she said.
CALL FOR GLOBAL RESPONSE
Regarding a broader response to extreme conditions, Le Quere said, “we need to get together to tackle climate change because the global emissions have to be brought down to net zero for the climate to stabilise.”
At the scale of a country and even a local community, she said, “people first need to do their bit in a coordinated fashion” to find solutions.
“People who deny climate change really need to spend some time looking at the data and experiencing this for themselves, because it’s very urgent that society act on climate change to limit the level of warming and to adapt,” Le Quere said.
“What we are experiencing with the current heat wave is a pattern that will come more,” warned the professor, noting the importance of learning to adapt and figuring out how to live under these conditions.
She added that adapting to climate change also means adapting to all the extreme events it creates.
“It’s not just the case of having a few sunny days. It’s really the case of the whole weather, the whole climate changing and our environment having to follow along,” Le Quere said, “and us in society having to make adjustments for that.” ■