Climate change-driven heat events that pushed UK temperatures to record highs Tuesday will become more frequent and intense for decades to come, the head of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said.
“The negative trending climate will persist until at least 2060,” Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, of the WMO said at a briefing in Geneva.
“These heat waves are becoming more frequent because of climate change,” he added, blaming the volume of carbon dioxide already emitted.
The UN official likened the climate situation to an athlete enhancing their performance with illegal drugs.
“We have been doping our atmosphere by injecting more carbon dioxide,” Taalas said.
The WMO as well as the World Health Organization said they were expecting increasing pressure on health systems and more casualties due to the current heat wave in Europe that has boosted temperatures from France to the UK where thermometers reached 40 degrees Celsius on Tuesday for the first time ever.
Last year, Europe recorded its highest temperature ever, 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.84 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sicily, Italy. Heat records were also broken in Spain, Turkey and Canada last year and the WMO expects more record temperatures soon.
The more frequent heat events should be a “wake-up call” for governments and voters, the WMO chief said. Policies should encourage climate change mitigation that would help cities better adapt to higher temperatures, reducing fossil fuels and eating less meat, the UN officials said.
Higher temperatures are already impacting food production with crop damage as well as medical emergencies. The elderly, young and pregnant women are most at risk, the WHO said.