The dangers of heat stress for both indoor and outdoor workers is only increasing as our planet continues to warm. In the food system, farmworkers, warehouse workers, restaurant workers and street vendors are some of the most impacted, but this is a hazard for workers across all sectors, like construction workers and delivery drivers. Incarcerated people are also extremely vulnerable to the dangers of heat stress. Yet, federal OSHA has no standard to protect workers from the dangers of heat exposure. A small number of states have created their own standards: California, Minnesota, Washington, and last year, Oregon and Colorado.
As recently as the 1940s, New Yorkers swam in floating pools in the Hudson and East Rivers. A safer alternative to swimming directly in the river, the municipal baths kept residents cool in hot summer months until they were closed over sanitation concerns. Now, as the city contends with life-threatening heat, can New Yorkers once again turn to the rivers to stay cool? The team behind +Pool, an initiative to bring a floating swimming pool to the East River, is betting on it. The organization’s proposed cross-shaped, Olympic-size pool would differ from its historic predecessors in one significant way: filtration.
As the country roasted last week under extreme heat made more intense by climate change, tens of thousands of Americans received text messages telling them they could get paid if they powered down their devices and appliances during specific periods of the day. If their homes were equipped with smart thermostats or smart water heaters, the devices may have powered down automatically. It may have seemed like a simple action to conserve energy during hours of peak demand. But behind the scenes, a number of companies that have emerged in recent years were working with utilities to monitor and respond to the stress on the grid as people blasted air conditioners to stave off the blistering heat.
As heat waves and wildfires cause chaos in North Africa, Europe and North America, climate scientists from the United Nations (UN) have announced that it is almost certain this July will be the warmest month ever recorded. At a press conference on climate Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned, “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived,” a UN press release said. “Today, the World Meteorological Organization and the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service are releasing official data that confirms that July 2023 is set to be the hottest month ever recorded in human history,” Guterres said.
Even as summer temperatures soar and states wrangle with protecting outdoor workers from extreme heat, Texas recently enacted a law that axes city rules mandating water and shade breaks for construction workers. In state after state, lawmakers and regulators have in recent years declined to require companies to offer their outdoor laborers rest breaks with shade and water. In some cases, legislation failed to gain traction. In others, state regulators decided against action or have taken years to write and release rules. Heat causes more deaths in the United States each year than any other extreme weather.
Climate change is causing global temperatures to rise, leading to droughts, heat waves and wildfires. It is warming the surface of the ocean, intensifying hurricanes and increasing acidity and ecosystem imbalances. But the climate crisis is also happening beneath our feet, in a phenomenon called “underground climate change.” The concept has been studied for years surrounding issues of railroad tracks buckling in the heat and groundwater contamination, according to CNN. However, it was not until recently, in a new study by Alessandro F. Rotta Loria, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University, that the effects of underground climate change — also known as “subsurface heat islands” — on civil infrastructure were examined, a press release from Northwestern University said.
The average global temperature reached a new high on July 3 at 17.01 degrees Celsius (62.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the highest average since records initially began in the 19th century and since satellite monitoring began in the 1970s. July 4 was even hotter, reaching 0.17 degrees Celsius (0.31 degrees Fahrenheit) higher. The high temperatures come after scientists strongly predicted an El Niño event to happen and push the world to record high average temperatures. “The average global surface air temperature reaching 17C for the first time since we have reliable records available is a significant symbolic milestone in our warming world,” said climate researcher Leon Simons
Scientists have warned that an extreme marine heat wave off the UK and Ireland coasts is posing a major threat to marine species. According to the official blog of the UK’s Met Office, the global sea surface temperatures for April and May of this year were the highest since records began in 1850. Last month was the warmest May on record in the North Atlantic, with temperatures about 1.25 degrees Celsius higher than average over the 1961 to 1990 reference period. “The extreme and unprecedented temperatures show the power of the combination of human-induced warming and natural climate variability like El Niño,” said Daniela Schmidt, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Bristol.
A new study by 50 leading scientists conducted to supplement the “information gap” between Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports said global greenhouse gas emissions have soared to a record high and are threatening to push our planet into “unprecedented” global heating. Earth’s carbon budget — the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted to have a greater than 50 percent likelihood of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — is quickly running out, the study warned. “Evidence-based decision-making needs to be informed by up-to-date and timely information on key indicators of the state of the climate system and of the human influence on the global climate system.
We’re fast approaching the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels that we’ve been warned about. According to the latest Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office and issued by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO), there is a 66 percent likelihood that between 2023 and 2027 the yearly average global temperature will be more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for at least one year, a press release from WMO said. “[I]t’s the first time in history that it’s more likely than not that we will exceed 1.5C,” said Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at Britain’s Met Office Hadley Centre, who worked on the WMO update, as Reuters reported.
The only way of ensuring that the overshoot is temporary is to decisively defeat the fossil fuel cartel. The 1.5°C temperature target is difficult to honestly and openly discuss. Within the climate movement, it has become a locus of anguish, confusion, and even despair. Long a symbol of mobilization and hope, 1.5° has become central to both activist campaigns and scientific analysis. Yet it’s now clear that the planet will almost certainly warm more than 1.5°C. This is a rough prospect. It will likely condemn countless communities, many of them largely innocent of responsibility for the climate crisis, to suffering and destruction on a vast scale.
On Monday, March 20, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the final part of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), called the Synthesis Report (SYR). The report is a compilation of the IPCC’s three previous assessment reports, which covered the science of climate change, its risks and impacts, and the means of adaptation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The text also covers the 2018 report on the impacts of global heating beyond 1.5°C and special reports on climate, oceans, and land. The IPCC notes that human activities have “unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperature reaching 1.1°C above 1850-1900 [pre-industrial levels] in 2011-2020.”
Decisions made this decade will largely determine whether world leaders can limit global warming to 1.5 or two degrees Celsius of warming below pre-industrial levels and avoid the increasingly more drastic impacts of the climate crisis. That’s one key takeaway from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Synthesis Report of the findings gathered in its Sixth Assessment Cycle. The Summary for Policymakers, released Monday, found that all economic sectors would need to launch “rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate” cuts in greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 in order to have a more than 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or a more than 67 percent chance of limiting it to two degrees Celsius of warming.
Beyond all the hype and all the anxiety about climate policymaking, the upbeat newsmaking about energy transitions and the growing dread of civilisational collapse, what have we learned about the climate system in the last year? Here are some key observations drawn from research and data published in 2022. Atmospheric levels of all three main greenhouse gases reached record highs in 2022. Carbon Monitor reported emissions data for full year 2022 as: “Global CO2 (carbon dioxide) increased by +1.6% in 2022 (+8.0% than 2020, and +2.1% than 2019)”, an all-time record.
We are not going to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This means we will soon be entering a much warmer and more dangerous world. The threshold of 1.5°C was the highest ambition of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement. It was arrived at by a realisation that warming beyond this temperature would produce intolerable suffering to those most exposed to global warming. So what can we make of politicians who continue to argue that ‘1.5°C is still alive’? Are they misinformed or are they simply lying?