June 25, 2018

Is the hot summer due to climate change?

Europe is braced for ‘one of the hottest heatwaves in a decade.’

Occasional heat waves are nothing new. But extreme heat has become increasingly common. And with climate change, they will become even more intense in the years to come. This has serious implications for people, communities, and infrastructure.

On 3 September, the UK Met office announced that 2018 saw the joint hottest summer on record for the UK as a whole – and the hottest ever for England1.

Here’s what we know:

We know that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been since 2000.

We know that there are currently wildfires in the Arctic Circle.

We know temperatures highs for summer 2018 were tied with those of 2006, 2003 and 1976 for being the highest since records began in 1910.

We know that in some parts of the world, they’ve had to invent new colours for the heat maps.

But is this due to climate change?

In 2003 and 2006, the question of whether the heat was down to climate change was asked. Scientists were unequivocal. The press was more reticent. For one reason or another, climate change, its risks and its impacts, just doesn’t make the news.

Climate change - canopy

Now, the tide seems to be turning. The heat is starting to make headlines, and patterns of weather and climate too.

Last summer the Economist shouted, “ We are losing the war against climate change”2. Even The Sun’s front page declared ‘The World’s on Fire’.

Conversations are moving from whether climate change exists, to what it means.

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It is this conversation that will drive change. Climate change is no one’s priority, until one day it is. It seems there are far more important things to worry about, until it affects you, your job, your home and your finances, even your health. The reluctance to join the dots between the sweltering heat and the wider understanding of climate change is hopefully, a thing of the past.

But much of the mainstream press still has a long way to go in instilling the sense of urgency required to avert dangerous levels of climate change 3.

Climate change - slash and burn

What can we do?

The importance of rainforest cannot be underestimated. Several pieces of research point to forests being a crucial part in the puzzle. Protecting, restoring, and better managing tropical forests could provide as much as half the net carbon emissions required to meet a 2-degree Celsius climate target 4.

Keep rainforest standing

“Absorption of carbon by tropical forests could offset much of the release of fossil fuel carbon between now and 2050, thus stabilizing and then reducing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere within just a few decades, and providing a bridge to a fossil-fuel-free world.”

Carbon-storing, climate moderating, rainforest is our best chance of keeping Earth cool. As if temperatures rise too high, the rainforest will turn on us, becoming a source of carbon rather than the mediating natural wonder that it is.

We do have the tools – science, nature, technology, policy, conversation – to make a real difference. We just have to do it now.


Is the hot summer due to climate change?
  1. BBC News, 2018

  2. The Economist, 2018

  3. Business Green, 2018


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