Extreme weather is making climate change harder and harder to deny


Our View

For years climate change deniers have flown in the face of scientific research and repeatedly mocked warnings about earth's changing climate.

While many still subscribe to the deniers' frequently ludicrous claims, the extreme weather we have witnessed in the recent weeks, months and, indeed, years is proving enormously damaging to their argument.

The recent heatwave across Ireland and the rest of Europe is just one example of the increasingly diverse weather that we have been experiencing in the last two decades.

Yet this heatwave didn't have the same lethal impact as the heatwave that scorched Europe in August 2003. That month Europe baked in the highest temperatures recorded on the continent since modern records began and an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people lost their lives in heat-related deaths.

Of course, the recent heat wave has not been without tragedy and loss of life. Hundreds have died across Europe with the worst incident unfolding in Greece where over 80 people lost their lives in a terrifying inferno.

That fire wasn't necessarily caused by the heatwave, it is now thought that arsonists may have started the lethal fire, but Greek authorities say the dry conditions made the fire much worse, helped it spread extremely quickly and made it much harder to combat.

Across Europe there have been other dramatic examples of the heatwave's impact. Massive wildfires were experienced in the UK and Sweden; in Germany an airport's runway buckled and across the continent railway tracks have been warped.

Meanwhile, the effects of the drought - visible from space in satellite photos - has left Europe looking scorched and brown with farmers across the continent struggling to survive.

It's not just Europe either.

In Japan the Government has declared a national emergency as the country experiences the highest temperatures ever witnessed there. In all 65 people have died and 22,000 have been hospitalised with heat stroke in a country which is well used to high temperatures.

In Africa, where there can be unremitting heat, the fourth highest June temperatures recorded since 1910 have been experienced. Meanwhile, 11 wildfires are still raging as far north as the Arctic circle.

Heat isn't the only problem. The position of the west-to-east Atlantic Jet Stream, which plays a huge role in determining Europe's weather, has seen Iceland battered by unseasonal storms that would normally happen much farther south and over the ocean.

It simply cannot be denied that the weather in the last two decades has become more extreme.

In Ireland alone we have had three borderline Arctic winters and experienced dozens of extreme wind storms.

It will be many years before these events can be definitively linked to climate change. But it is hard to imagine that climate change hasn't played a part. We have to start treating climate change seriously. Maybe this wild, weird weather will help.