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.
This summer, the tide seems to be turning. The heat has been in the headlines for weeks.
The Economist shouted, “ We are losing the war against climate change”2. Even The Sun’s front page declared ‘The World’s on Fire’. Hothouse Earth was trending on Twitter, as was Earth Overshoot Day.
Conversations are moving from whether climate change exists, to what it means.
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.
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.