‘No Break, No Escape Anywhere’ from Heat; Scientists Appeal to World Leaders Ahead of Delhi G20 Summit
Climate Shift Index™ (CSI) for 16 August 2023, the day when climate-related heat abnormalities peaked with some 4.2 billion people experiencing extreme heat at CSI level 3 or higher. High CSI values mean climate change made the temperatures more likely.

Climate change increased temperatures for nearly every human being on the planet between June-August, 2023  

On the eve of the G20 summit in Delhi, a group of independent climate scientists has reported that human-induced climate change increased temperatures for nearly every human being in the world for at least one day between June and August, 2023. 

They measure this increased exposure using a Climate Shift Index (CSI) which assesses on a daily basis the influence of human-caused climate change on daily average temperatures experienced across
the globe. The assessment from June 1, 2023 to August 31 covered the world’s 202 countries and territories.

According to the analysis, Over 3.8 billion people — or 48% of the global population — experienced at least 30 days during June-August with a CSI level 3 or higher. A CSI level 3 indicates that human-caused
climate change made those higher temperatures at least three times more likely. 

At least 1.5 billion people experienced very high levels of climate change-induced heat (CSI level 3 or higher) on every single day of the  June-August period analyzed. Global exposures peaked on August 16, 2023, when 4.2 billion people worldwide experienced extreme heat at CSI level 3 or higher.

The Climate Shift Index™ (CSI) for daily average temperatures between June and August 2023. High CSI values mean climate change made the temperatures more likely.

Carbon pollution boosted heat for billions during Earth’s hottest summer: Climate Central

The report was has produced by the Princeton New Jersey-based non-profit, Climate Central,  along with the World Weather Attribution initiative of Imperial College, London. Their common aim is to provide scientific evidence of links between extreme weather events and climate change ‘when the world is watching,’ that is, while an event is still making headlines rather than several months later. 

From the massive fires in Canada to the well-above normal temperatures in parts of the southern hemisphere, where it was winter in the June-August period, the effect of climate change has been unprecedented, the scientists say.

The report also brings into sharp focus the inequity of climate change. The poorest, the most vulnerable, those countries and communities least responsible for carbon emissions have suffered the most, the scientists point out. For instance, people living in the United Nations’ Least Developed countries (47 days) and Small Island Developing States (65) were exposed to far more days of CSI level-3 or above on the Climate Shift Index, despite being responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Countries with the lowest historical emissions experienced three to four times more June-August days with CSI-3 or higher than G20 countries. 

Appeal to G20: ‘Stop killing vulnerable people’

Firefighters battle wildfires in the western United States. Poor countries, however, are even more vulnerable to the ravages of extreme heat.

In a press release on Thursday, the group’s leaders appealed to the G20, whose countries control about 80% of the global economy, to stop burning fossil fuels. Responding to a question by Health Policy Watch on what  message they would like to deliver to the heads of state, meeting this weekend in New Delhi is, Dr Friederike Otto, an Imperial College climatologist said, “As long as these countries, the G20, continue policies that subsidise fossil fuels, that have strong influence from fossil fuel lobby groups, and make policies that benefit the fossil fuel industry, they kill their populations, they kill the vulnerable people in the world and make their lives extremely difficult. So we have to stop burning fossil fuels.”

The current extreme heat is happening when temperatures are already 1.2°C, on average, above pre-industrial times of 150 years ago. Beyond 1.5°C degrees scientists expect the destruction of ecosystems and intensity and frequency of extreme weather to be far worse than what the world is experiencing already today.

No Place to Escape

Young woman looks over slum on periphery of Lima, Peru during a heat wave in April 2022. While the impacts of wildfires, droughts and extreme heat receive extensive coverage in the media of North America, Europe and other high-income countries, it gets scant attention in media of the global south, scientists found.

Dr Andrew Pershing, vice president for science at Climate Central, added, “One of the big lessons from this summer is that there’s no break and there’s no escape. I think we’d all like to imagine that we could move somewhere, and everything would be great, but every place is feeling that impact. The unusual climate-driven heat was so persistent just day after day after day. Changes are happening much faster than the societies are changing.”

The longer term effects of climate change have been exacerbated by this year’s onset of the El Nino weather pattern. El Niño occurs every few years when sea temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific rise 0.5 °C above the long-term average, which pushes up temperatures even further and reduces rainfall in some regions of the world, leading to even more dangerous levels of heat. 

In India, the five states which suffered the highest CSI levels between June and August also are among India’s top-most destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists – Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar, Puducherry, Meghalaya and Goa. The heatwaves in cities like Delhi, of course, began months earlier in March or April compounded by the urban heat-island effect of its vast expanses of concrete. 

Inequality in Media Reporting: Global South Suffering Stronger Impact

The scientists also urged more reporting in the global media on the effects of climate change from places like Africa. During their study, they observed that extreme weather events in the African continent were rarely the focus of extensive media reports, whereas “everything that happens” in the US or Europe gets reported, in the words of Pershing. 

“We’re not surprised that we’re seeing stronger climate fingerprints in the global South than we are in the northern hemisphere. Some of that is just physics. That’s sort of what we expect. But it’s really shocking to see the difference between the [reported] experience of somebody living in Africa, Puerto Rico or Central America versus somebody living in Oslo, Norway, or London,” Pershing said.

Image Credits: Climate Central, Climate Central, Daria Devyatkina/Flickr, Paula Dupraz-Dobias.

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