Deadly Heat Waves Rising

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On Jan. 1, 2014 the South Australian town of Moomba reached 120F (49C) prompting the Bureau of Meteorology to add a new heat color to the weather map.

Earlier this month, the annual State of the Climate report validated that 2015 eclipsed 2014 as the hottest year since the inception of continuous record keeping in 1880.

Four hundred and fifty of my colleagues from 62 countries worked to compile the 2015 State of the Climate report.

The diminishing Arctic Sea ice cover and concurrent epic rise of methane, 100 times stronger at trapping heat than carbon dioxide for the first couple decades in the atmosphere, from unthawing subarctic soils, continues to shatter all records in modern times.

The year 2016 is predicted to surpass 2015 as the hottest year ever recorded.

For instance, this year on May 19, the City of Phalodi reached 1240F, a record temperature for India. The ensuing extreme heat wave saw bodies stacked up in morgues across the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

On July 21, a weather station in Mitribah, a remote area in northwest Kuwait, recorded the temperature along with Basra, across the border in Iraq, of 1290F — an all-time high temperature record for the Eastern Hemisphere.

The mercury is predicted to soar into triple digits this weekend along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, with insufferably high humidities. Heat waves are becoming the new normal as we glimpse unintended consequences of burning climate-altering fossil fuels and more climate-related catastrophes.

Already, the U.N. and my colleagues have forecasted that the Middle East and North Africa will become uninhabitable in the coming decade(s) from prolonged heat waves and water scarcity. Hundreds of millions of people will become climate refugees.

My colleagues from Oxford University have conclusively shown that an extreme heat wave in 2003 killed 506 Parisians and 315 Londoners.

My colleagues at the Climate Council warned that Australians were underprepared to deal with the “killer heat” resulting in 370 deaths during the 2009 heat wave.

Extreme heat waves kill more people than hurricanes, cyclones, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and blizzards in both America and Australia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that the frequency of extreme heat waves will increase from one every 20 years to as often as one every two to four years as temperatures continue to rise from burning fossil fuels.

The only way to reduce these deadly, extreme heat wave frequencies is to switch from subsidizing fossil fuels ($5.6 trillion annually) and begin promoting green energy technologies.

It also means protecting the oceans, not plundering them by extracting 1.9 billion barrels of heat-trapping oil and gas as proposed by BP in the Great Australian Bight Marine National Park.

It’s not just people at risk; nature is collapsing on land and under the sea as temperatures continue to rise. We need nature in order to survive on our planet.

Save nature now.

Earth Doctor Reese Halter is the author of “The Insatiable Bark Beetle.”