“‘The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.’”
That’s United Nation’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, himself on a boil Thursday, in a climate-change speech delivered as major climate trackers declared July the hottest month on record.
“Humanity is in the hot seat,” Guterres told a press conference. “For vast parts of North America, Asia, Africa and Europe, it is a cruel summer. For the entire planet, it is a disaster. And for scientists, it is unequivocal — humans are to blame.
Although Earth’s temperature has risen and fallen naturally in the eons since its birth, it is the pace of post-Industrial Revolution atmospheric warming via human-generated greenhouse gases that some officials, worried citizens and technology and alternative-energy champions are fighting to slow, or even reverse.
With a warming atmosphere comes weather extremes such as floods and deadly heat.
“All this is entirely consistent with predictions and repeated warnings. The only surprise is the speed of the change. Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning,” Guterres added.
He spoke on the same day that President Joe Biden’s White House announced new federally-mandated protections for outside workers due to heat. Washington moved on extreme heat just weeks after Texas passed a law that will eliminate mandatory water breaks for construction workers in cities where such ordinances had been in place.
Such action comes as nearly 40% of the U.S. population faces extreme heat advisories right now, according to the National Weather Service. Above-normal temperatures have already scorched the Southwest this month, and more heat is expected in the Midwest and the Northeast in the coming days.
Muggy Washington won’t be spared, and the heat index in the capital could reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday.
“Even those places that are used to extreme heat have never seen it as hot as it is now for as long as it’s been,” Biden said. “Even those who deny that we’re in the midst of a climate crisis can’t deny the impact of extreme heat is having on Americans.”
Both Guterres and Biden spoke on the day that at least three different organizations declared July a record month for extreme heat: the World Meteorological Organization, the European Union–funded Copernicus Climate Change Service and Leipzig University in Germany.
A release from Leipzig University and another from the WMO and the Copernicus Climate Change Service, known as C3S, said July temperatures were about 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That rise is tied to human-caused global warming and includes a boost to temperatures from El Niño, the recurring weather phenomenon whose latest impact, scientists say, is only beginning.
“The air is unbreathable, the heat is unbearable, and the level of fossil-fuel
profits and climate inaction is unacceptable. Leaders must lead. No more hesitancy, no more excuses, no more waiting for others to move first. There is simply no more time for that,” Guterres said.
Oil and gas concerns and the lawmakers in state’s that largely host these interests have long said that while they acknowledge climate change, it will take a broad portfolio of energy answers, from natural gas to solar to nuclear, to smooth the transition to a greener-energy future and hold down costs for businesses and consumers.
Guterres wrapped his remarks with some hope for reversal, but only if a more-aggressive response becomes immediate.
“It is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C [the target set in the voluntary 2015 Paris climate pact] and avoid the very worst of climate change but only with dramatic, immediate climate action,” he said. “We have seen some progress — a robust rollout of renewables
and some positive steps from sectors such as shipping — but none of this is going far enough or fast enough. Accelerating temperatures demand accelerated action.”