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Extreme heat

One of the clear findings of climatology is that the intensity, duration and frequency of extreme heat waves, periods of drought and forest fires are increasing due to global warming.

After a week-long walk fleeing the drought in Somalia, a girl stands between graves in a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. (Photo: Andy Hall / Oxfam)

The atmosphere and oceans of our planet are heating up strongly, ten times faster than they have ever been in the last 65 million years. This was particularly evident in the last 20 years, as the highest temperature records were measured during this period.

During the 2015 heat wave that killed 2,300 people, a man in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India is treated for a sunstroke and extreme dehydration by doctors. (Photo: Sanjeev Gupta / EPA)

Even a small increase in temperature has fatal consequences: since we started burning coal, oil and gas, the global average temperature has increased by 1 degree Celsius, which has increased the frequency of heat waves dramatically.

Global warming has contributed to deadly heat waves and worsening droughts, and has widened the spread of wildfires. India experienced the worst heat wave on record in 2015. More than 2,300 people lost their lives in the process. Heat waves happen every year in India, but because of global warming, recent heat waves have been even hotter and, as a result, more deadly.

Droughts are exacerbated by global warming. A warmer atmosphere removes more water from the soil, making dry spells more likely. In 2015 and 2016, droughts and rising temperatures resulted in over 36 million people in eastern and southern Africa starving. It was the worst drought in Ethiopia's recent history.

A wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada destroyed 590,000 acres of land, reduced some 2,400 homes and other buildings, and caused over $ 9 billion in damage. (Photo: Jupm Studios)

Conflagrations are an indicator of the rapid warming of our atmosphere. An extremely dry winter and unusually warm weather for the time of year caused devastating wildfires across North America in 2016. Among other things for - the most expensive catastrophe of all time in Canada, the losses of which are expected to add up to 3.58 billion dollars.

Ocean warming and acidification

The record heat can be felt on land, but most of the additional heat energy from our atmosphere is stored in the oceans. This quickly leads to changes and the collapse of crucial ecosystems in our seas.

Coral bleaching off Heron Island in February 2016, in the extreme south of the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo: Richard Vevers / The Ocean Agency)

Since 1955, over 90 percent of the energy released into the atmosphere due to increased greenhouse gases has been absorbed by the oceans.

Lots of coral bleaching

Until the 1980s, there had been no signs of coral bleaching for ten thousand years, probably much longer. Coral reefs are now largely affected in almost all regions of the world, and coral reefs are now largely affected in almost all regions of the world. Once colorful coral reefs full of life, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Andamans in the Indian Ocean, have been bleached. They only turn white and after they die, when they are covered by algae, they turn dirty brown. (Learn more about our Coral Reef Crime Scene campaign).

Laurie Raymundo, a marine researcher from Guam, said:

“Actually, I consider myself to be quite objective and logical when it comes to science. But sometimes it also hits me emotionally. For the first time since I started diving 50 years ago, I cried into my goggles for an hour today when I saw the extent to which our beautiful corals in Tumon Bay are bleaching and dying. "

Reefs are the habitat of approximately 25% of all marine species, and massive coral extinction threatens the livelihoods of 500 million people and goods and services valued at $ 375 billion annually. If greenhouse gases are not reduced, most of the world's coral reefs will be dead within decades.


Warmer seas = higher sea levels

When water heats up, it expands. This simple phenomenon - in addition to the increased flow of water into the oceans through the melt ice of the polar regions and glaciers - is responsible for the rapid rise in sea levels.

Vegetation on the Ailuk Atoll, Marshall Islands, died by penetrating salt water and drought in 2013. (Photo: PACC)

Even a slight rise in sea level results in dramatic damage and changes because spring and storm tides penetrate further into the country. On some islands such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, the higher sea levels lead to flooding events, with the sea flowing over the entire island during high tide.When salt water contaminates groundwater reservoirs, food cultivation suffers and the supply of drinking water is compromised.

The Fijian government is already in the process of relocating 64 villages due to the effects of rising sea levels. . Another 830 villages are at great risk and may need to be relocated as well. The indigenous village of Shishmaref in Alaska has decided to relocate due to rising sea levels.

Currently, sea levels are rising at around 3.4mm / year, with the rate of rise increasing over time, in addition to annual highs and lows. We can no longer completely prevent sea level rise, but if we leave fossil fuels in the ground from now on, we can reduce it for centuries.

If fossil fuels stay in the ground, we can limit sea level rise to another 50ₒcm. If we don't do it and allow global warming to rise to over 2ₒ ° C, it can be 10 meters or more. Much is at stake: 37% of the world's population lives in coastal areas.

Floods and extreme storms

Storms and heavy rain have always been around, but with a hotter climate and warmer seas, storms become more extreme and retain more moisture.

September 2016: Rescue workers come to the rescue of trapped residents of Nan'an, Fujian Province in southeast China. (Photo: Xinhua)

With each additional degree of temperature rise, the atmosphere stores around 7% more water vapor. In the last 25 years alone, satellite measurements have determined an increase in the water vapor content of the atmosphere by 4%, which corresponds to the rapid heating of the atmosphere.

Because of man-made climate change, storms, cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons now bring significantly more rain and thus more floods. They are also associated with higher winds, which in turn increases storm surges.

Residents who did not want to be evacuated were sitting on makeshift boats during the evacuation of the Paris suburb of Villeneuve-Trillage on June 3, 2016. (Photo: Christian Hartmann)

It was found that the likelihood of flooding Paris and the surrounding area in June 2016 due to climate change increased by at least 40 percent - and up to 90 percent. The flooding was so dramatic that even the famous Louvre had to be evacuated.

The June and July 2016 flooding in China, which killed more than 833 people, destroyed more than 400,000 homes, and left more than 6 million people abandoned, was made significantly worse by man-made climate change.

The unusually warm water of the Caribbean (due to global warming) caused Hurricane Matthew to intensify incredibly quickly in September 2016. This fits in with the observed trend of rapidly intensifying tropical hurricanes. In just 36 hours, Matthew went from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane that left a swath of destruction on its way over Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the southeastern United States.

Further burning of fossil fuels has a very real price - storms, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones cause more deaths and higher costs. Leaving fossil fuels in the ground is the best way to protect people from immeasurable destruction.

Sea level rise and melting ice

As the oceans and atmosphere heat up, the Earth's ice masses are on the decline - this affects glaciers as well as the Arctic and Antarctic, causing sea levels to rise, less thermal energy being reflected from the earth's surface into space and unique ecosystems being endangered.

Ice diagram of the Arctic (Graphic: Christian Hartmann)

Since satellite observation began 37 years ago, the sea ice in the Arctic has been decreasing dramatically, every ten years by an average of 3.7% of the total. Far-reaching changes are taking place across the Arctic. The habitats of countless species (yes, including polar bears) and the livelihoods of many indigenous societies are threatened.

In 2016, Arctic sea ice melt continued into the polar winter - a phenomenon observed for the first time in modern history. Some regions were 20 degrees Celsius warmer than normal. Apocalyptic "snowstorm winters" are very likely to be related to the rapidly rising polar temperatures, as well as deadly heat waves in summer and widespread floods.

The Antarctic ice sheet also changes with rising temperatures, albeit more slowly than the Arctic one. As the largest freshwater reservoir on earth, the Antarctic could raise sea levels by more than one meter by 2100 and, if emissions continue unabated, by more than 15 meters by 2500. Recent research shows that Antarctica's contribution to sea level rise is almost zero when the temperature rises by up to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but then jumps to at least 2 meters as soon as we exceed the 2 degree limit.

The difference if we leave fossil fuels in the ground now is remarkable: if we act now, the Antarctic ice sheet would remain largely intact, if not it will gradually slide inexorably into the sea, causing many trillions in damage all over the world Cause dollars.

Glaciers are very sensitive to temperature changes and are irrevocably retreating due to climate change. For many smaller and larger cities around the world, glaciers are an important year-round supplier of water.

For example, a quarter of the water requirements of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, have always been covered by glaciers during the dry season. But in 2016 the reservoirs that get their water from the glaciers almost fell dry because the glaciers disappeared very quickly. As a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute shows, it is a rapid and irreversible meltdown:

“A glacier on Mount Chacaltaya, which once housed the highest ski area in the world, has already completely disappeared. And the two Tuni-Condoriri glaciers, which supply El Alto and La Paz with water, lost 39% of their area between 1983 and 2006 - at a speed of 0.24 km² per year. "

Melting glaciers in the Himalayas, the Andes, the Arctic, the Southern Alps of New Zealand and elsewhere is an enormous cost factor and threatens the people and wildlife who used to be able to rely on the year-round stability of the glaciers.

Because glaciers are extremely sensitive to even slight fluctuations in temperature, many glaciers will disappear even if we stop emissions immediately.

Changed seasons, habitats & climates

The heating of the atmosphere changes the course of the seasons, the expansion of certain habitats and it shifts warmer climates towards the poles.

The female mosquito Aedes albopictus can spread the Zika virus. (Photo: James Gathany / CDC)

Due to the shift in the tropical and subtropical climatic zones in the polar direction, the habitats of mosquitoes and thus the areas of spread of the infectious diseases they transmit, such as Zika and dengue fever, continue to expand. With increasing global warming, tropical diseases will continue to spread.

Habitats on the tundra are becoming increasingly scarce as tropical and subtropical zones are expanding. This threatens animals like polar bears to possible extinction.

The migratory movements of wild animals are also changing. For example, in the last decade it has been observed that bird migration in many species begins weeks earlier than usual.

The seasons change and become more unpredictable, making it increasingly difficult for farmers to determine when to sow and harvest. Recent research has shown that summer conditions in Europe occur 10 days earlier than they did 40 years ago.

A note on extreme cold:

Unusually cold weather or heavy snowfalls are often used by climate skeptics as evidence that climate change does not exist. But that's a lie.

Climate change is already changing the seasons, affecting habitats and shifting climatic zones, causing species to become extinct and farmers suffering hardship. Leaving fossil fuels in the ground is the best way to protect vital habitats and livelihoods.