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Global Boiling

Isla Stubbs reports the hottest month on record, and the devastating impacts of ‘global boiling’ across the planet in the month of July.

Last month, July 2023, devastatingly marked a turning point in the history of planet Earth. On the 6th July, the daily average global surface air temperature surpassed the previous record (set in August 2016), with the 5th and 7th July following suit. In an unsettling confirmation, it has now been settled by the EU’s Copernicus that July 2023 made its way into history, as the hottest month ever recorded in human history. It measured at an average of 1.5C hotter than the average for the years 1850-1900.

Wildfire in Alberta, Canada, (2009), just like those streaking across the globe in July. Image Credit: Cameron Strandberg.

This unprecedented escalation in global temperatures resulted in devastating wildfires sparking aflame across the planet; European heatwaves have led to Greece being hit particularly hard, with more that 20,000 people being evacuated. Meanwhile, across the globe, recent wildfires in Hawaii have resulted in a current death toll of 80 people, and many more still missing.

In contrast with the Arctic, where consistent long-term trends of ice decline have been recorded, Antarctica’s sea ice extent has, in the past, largely held its ground. However, these once stable waters are not immune to the catastrophic effects of climate change. A pattern has emerged in recent years, with sea ice extent experiencing a significant drop below previously established averages.

Another historic turning point was reached in July, at the far pole of the planet, as Antarctica witnessed its lowest sea ice extent on record for that particular month. The measured ice stooped to a staggering 15% below the 1991-2020 average, after the previous month was also 17% below average. This shift once again proves that even the most seemingly invulnerable and remotest of regions are not spared from the changing climate.

Antarctic ice melt in 2020. Image Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Ministers in the UK have consistently been criticised over lack of action towards preventing further global warming. A recent government plan to cope with the impending climate crisis was leaked last month, with many experts criticising it as “very weak”, with not enough being done to protect both lives and livelihoods. This has once again confirmed the lack of urgency from the UK government, with other countries sadly following us, or leading us, down a similar path.

These dramatic worldwide consequences have resulted in a switch from global warming to the new phrase “global boiling”, as humans now become the frogs in the metaphorical “boiling pot” syndrome. The tale of the frog in the boiling pot fits perfectly with the global boiling we currently find ourselves in. The story describes the theory that if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out to save its life. However, if the frog is placed in a pot of cool water that is gradually heated, it will not perceive the danger until it is too late.

Gradual changes in global temperature and ecosystem stability may seem tolerable, but the tipping point is rapidly creeping closer. The events of July should serve as a wake-up call, and highlight the urgent need for immediate action.

About the Author: Isla Stubbs (she/her) has graduated from York with a BSc in Environmental Science, and will be starting her PhD in Ecotoxicology at York in September.

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