According to a new analysis from the Climate Impact Lab, even if we take moderate (but not drastic) climate action, we can expect more and more hot days in the years to come.
Hot days are more than a nuisance. When they hit, they hit agriculture, water security, and our health. Heat waves killing people is more than a rarity, claiming thousands of lives each year. As you’d expect from a phenomenon called ‘global warming,’ the planet is about to get even hotter.
Naturally, extreme heat especially threatens the areas close to the Equator — Northern Africa, Arabia, and India are already experiencing dramatic heat-related events, but they’re not the only ones. As you’d expect, Australia and South America are also facing numerous hot days, as is the Middle East, Southern Africa, and much of South-East Asia. But while Europe is mostly spared from this, the same can’t be said about the US.
Ironically, the country which has pledged to back away from the Paris Agreement will be among those who will suffer the most from increasing temperatures. While the North and central parts are mostly safe, the Southern US, as well as both coasts, will experience more and more torrid days.
Again, this is set to happen even if some climate action is taken — broadly, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. So then, you might wonder, why bother at all? Well, if we don’t do anything, it’s gonna be even worse; much worse.
Under that scenario, Washington could swelter in 95-degree weather for 74 days a year, as would much of the US. Virtually no area will be spared of heat days if this happens.
“Right now, when you start talking to people about higher temperatures, they tend to think, great, more beach days,” said Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley who helps direct the lab.
“What’s often less appreciated is just how much an extremely hot day can distort our lives in all sorts of ways we don’t often even think about.”
Thankfully, the world is moving away from this scenario, as most countries are taking concrete steps towards limiting their greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, we’re not really headed for the worst case scenario, but we’re also not headed for a good scenario. In a way, this sums up the Paris Agreement and its importance pretty well.
It is by no means a perfect agreement. It is ambitious but again, by no means is it a pinnacle of ambition. Its purpose is basically to ensure that the world doesn’t go to hell — it’s a starting point. It can be improved, it can be finessed, but it’s a planetary agreement that stuck; everyone agreed to it, except for Syria (who is in a civil war) and Nicaragua (who thus protested it’s not ambitious enough). Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the pact could add the US to that very short list.