This year, without going any further, the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) foresees a warmer than usual summer. The prognosis for months of June, July and August indicates that in practically the entire country, with the exception of the peninsular northwest, it is most likely that temperatures will be higher than expected for this season. The forecast coincides with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which also forecasts some above-average temperatures across the hemisphere north of the planet.
If the forecasts are fulfilled, this hot summer could leave new record figures in Spain. Just like it did the year before. And the last six summers; each warmer than the last. The summer of 2020, for example, was settled with a record balance. The average temperature (23.9º C) was almost one degree above average values. The arrival of two heat waves, moreover, set record figures in several localities of the country (the 42.2º C registered in Hondarribia on July 30, for example, marked the peak of a record that began in 1956). “It was about sixth consecutive summer with temperatures above normal values and the ninth warmest both in the 21st century and in the entire series “, concludes the AEMET report on the season.
“We see that year after year we keep breaking records and what if we continue in this Upward trend, we will reach higher and higher values. Projections show that by the end of the century we could be under extreme temperatures “, says Ernesto Rodríguez Camino, researcher at the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET).” In Spain we see that global warming causes increasingly hot summers. But not only that. We also observe that climate change leaves each time less rainfall. Less availability of water resources. More droughts. More extreme weather events. And more damage to all types of ecosystems “, the expert lists in an interview with this newspaper.
“We see that year after year we continue to break records and that, if we continue in this upward trend, we will reach higher and higher values”
The starkest face of global warming: fires, droughts and heat deaths
The increasingly hot summers have devastating consequences for the environment. Rising temperatures coupled with a lack of water resources, for example, creates an explosive cocktail for a summer full of fires. A recent study by eltiempo.es places the summer as the epicenter of the most devastating fires in Spain. The report indicates that the summer months not only concentrate the largest number of fires, but also stand out as those with the largest burned area. And the damage caused by these incidents is increasingly evident. In Galicia, for example, the fires suffered in the last 30 years have devastated more than a million hectares; the equivalent of the entire surface of Navarra.
The climate crisis does not only affect the environment. It also harms human health. A recent work by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), published in the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’, points out that global warming is already responsible for one in three deaths heat related. The research, which compiles data from the last three decades, relates 30% of the deaths from heat reported in Spain to the global increase in temperatures. Or put another way, it suggests that in a world without a climate crisis, up to 30% of deaths from extreme heat could have been avoided.
“We are very used to studies that tell us about the devastating consequences that the climate crisis will have in the future, but not so much to the data that show us its current impact,” sums up Aurelio Tobías, a researcher at the IDEA-CSIC institute. The scientist explains that big cities will be one of the scenarios where people will suffer the most the effect of this extreme heat, as the sea of concrete in cities produces heat islands which increase the summer temperatures even more. According to the recently published work, in the last 30 years global warming would have caused 117 deaths in Madrid, 94 in Barcelona and 39 in Seville. “If we add to this the deaths and health problems derived from pollution we see that the climate crisis is already having a brutal impact on human health, “says the expert.
But this is not all. An exhaustive report on climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean basin, written by 190 scientists from 25 countries, paints a not very promising picture for the 500 million inhabitants that reside in the Mediterranean arc. The study predicts that, for example, while the demand for food will continue to grow, the performance of agriculture, livestock and fishing will decline. “Limited resources will lead to both conflict and large-scale human migration,” adds the report, which delves into the impact of the climate crisis on human security.
Solutions against the climate crisis
Beyond the discussion on the effects of global warming, Rodríguez does not hesitate to point out the origin of the problem. “Let’s not forget that climate change is direct fruit of human activity. We continue to emit greenhouse gases and this is what is causing the planet’s global warming, “says the researcher.” It is urgent to drastically reduce these emissions. But also Action is urgently needed to cope with this rise in temperatures. It is necessary to adapt from transport to agriculture to a scenario where the effects of climate change will be increasingly noticeable, “says the AEMET scientist.
“We urgently need to apply strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Especially in large cities”
“We urgently need to apply climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Especially in big cities “, adds Tobías, who asks, for example, to look for strategies to” restructure cities to soften the impact of heat waves. “And although everything indicates that the future of cities depends on this type of policies, several studies suggest that the majority of European countries still do not find a clear roadmap, or at least that they are not taking sufficiently ambitious steps to curb the problem (or adapt to its inevitable consequences).
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.