This week in the Pacific north-west, temperature records were being broken. Temperatures reached 47.9C in British Columbia, Canada, temperatures more typically found in the Sahara desert, dozens have died of heat stress, with “roads buckling and power cables melting”.
Another heatwave earlier in June saw five Middle East countries top 50°C. The extreme heat reached Pakistan, where 20 children in one class were reported to have fallen unconscious and needed hospital treatment for heat stress.
Additional warming from greenhouse gas emissions means that such extreme heatwaves are more likely and scientists can now calculate the increase in their probability. For example, the 2019 European heatwave that killed 2,500 people was five times more likely than it would have been without global warming.
Extreme heatwaves outside the usual range for a region will cause problems, from disrupting the economy to widespread mortality, particularly among the young and old. Yet in places in the Middle East and Asia, something truly terrifying is emerging: the creation of unliveable heat.