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People are being exposed to ever more frequent and intense extreme events, the Copernicus Climate Change Service has warned.
July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).
Last month, average temperatures were roughly a third of a degree higher than the previous record set in 2019.
Records are usually only broken by tenths or hundredths of a degree.
South America and much of Antarctica experienced temperatures well above average while countries across the northern hemisphere – including in southern Europe – saw sweltering heatwaves.
“2023 is currently the third warmest year to date at 0.43ºC above the recent average, with the average global temperature in July at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” says Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S.
She adds that, while it doesn’t yet mean a breach of the Paris Agreement target, “it shows the urgency for ambitious efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main driver behind these records.”
C3S and the World Meteorological Organization made the unusual decision to announce that July was set to be the hottest month ever before it ended.
Tuesday’s calculations confirm that the 29 days from 3 to 31 July saw the highest temperatures since the EU started recording in 1940.
Last month also saw the world’s hottest day on 6 July when temperatures reached an average of 17.08°C – smashing a previous record set in August 2016.
Record air and ocean temperatures could have ‘dire consequences’
Records were also broken for global sea surface temperatures.
After “unusually high” temperatures in April, the ocean surface warmed to over 0.51°C above the 1991-2020 average in July.
Marine heatwaves were seen in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and waters south of Greenland last month.
Climate change harms communities historically targeted by discriminatory policies
As reported by ABC news, “The rates of emergency department visits for heat-related causes increased by 67% for African Americans, 63% for Hispanics, 53% for Asian Americans and 27% for white people from 2005 to 2015, according to a report in the Wilderness and Environmental Medicine journal.”
A 2017 paper in Science found that coastal communities in the South, where African Americans make up a large percentage of local populations, are areas at highest risk of sea-level rise.
In 2020, research showed that neighborhoods created by historic discriminatory “redlining” housing policies tend to have lower than average vegetation cover and so were at greater risk of extreme heat.
In 2021, a report by the Environmental Protection Agency found that, in a climate with 2 degrees Celsius of warming (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), Black and African American people were 40 percent more likely to live in areas that will experience the highest increases in extreme heat deaths.