EUROPE today is in the grip of a heat wave that has broken temperature records in many countries. Paris, France, baked at 42.6 degrees Celsius last Thursday, July 25, breaking the 70-year record of 40.4°C. The heat wave has spread all over Western Euope – 38.7°C in Cambridge, England; 41.8°C in Begijnendijk, Belgium; 39°C in Luxembourg; 40.7°C in Gilze-Rijen, Netherlands; 42.6°C in Lingen, Germany.
By way of comparison, Metro Manila recorded its hottest temperature this year at 36.6°C. on April 21.
The heat wave is now expanding northward to Norway, Sweden, and Finland, with Bergen, Norway, setting an all-time record high last Friday of 32.8°C. The rising heat has increased the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, adding water to the world’s oceans. If the ice sheet continues to melt, the world’s average sea levels are expected to rise by 23 feet.
Ironically, it was in Paris, now experiencing the greatest heat of the current heat wave, where in 2015, 174 states and the European Union approved the Paris Agreement to keep the world’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The world’s nations agreed to take steps to hold back their respective emissions of industrial gases, submitting national plans to achieve this.
One nation, however, rejected the Paris Agreement – the United States, which had just elected a new president, Donald Trump. It fell on Europe and China to lead the move to cut down on industrial emissions causing climate change.
In October last year, a UN-backed Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change reported that world industrial emissions have continued to rise despite avowed national intensions to reduce them. A new round of climate talks has been scheduled by the UN in Chile this December.
The ongoing heat wave in Europe is certainly an indication of worsening climatic conditions. There have been other signs – more powerful hurricanes causing much greater damage than before to many parts of the US, more powerful typhoons rising in the Pacific and moving towards the Philippines and the rest of East Asia, unusual floods and droughts in many countries. And now the heat wave in Europe that threatens to melt Arctic ice.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is said to be seeking greater commitments from various governments ahead of a planned summit conference in New York in September. If he could convince the US, the biggest source of industrial gasses, to join the rest of the world with some plan of action to cut down its emissions, that would be a major step forward.