It’s 35 degrees when I am writing this article; and on the radio I hear we just reached the first heatwave of the year. Just like in 2019 and 2018, the summers seem to be getting uncomfortably hot. In a country that is not used to having heatwaves, it raises the question what is happening to our climate; and what we should expect in the future.
Is Climate Change happening?
We have known about Climate Change for over 50 years; and the symptoms are getting ever more clear to see. Instead of a future scenario, we are talking about real-life changes that are happening today. This is the reason we are now talking about a Climate Emergency.
Increased Heatwaves are just 1 example of the many symptoms we are seeing. But it is important to acknowledge them, as we can see them happen in our own backyard. Let’s see what is happening to our climate, and see where we might go from here.
Even though in this article I will highlight data and examples from the Netherlands, similar stories are unfortunately true for most countries around the world.
Temperature over time
OK so today is hot. And if I remember it right, so were many days in 2019 and 2018. But memory is not always reliable, so let’s have a look at the data. The Netherlands has been keeping reliable and published records since 1901. If you like to go into depth you can find the full list at the Environmental Data Compendium.
In the image below you will see a graph of the average temperature in the Netherlands over time. The blue line indicates the actual recorded temperature. The red line in the middle shows the trend over time. In 1906 the average temperature in the middle of the Netherlands was around 9 degrees Celsius. A 100 years later it is up to 10 degrees on average, and in only 20 years almost 1 degree was added. The red trend line is always going up, without exception.
In only 20 years the average temperature went up with a full degree
This indicates that warming is happening consistently, and also that it is happening increasingly rapid. If you keep an eye on the news you’ll see that we keep breaking record temperatures, with the highest so far recorded in 2019, with 40,7°C. This week is set out to the be the hottest week ever recorded in the Netherlands.
We see a similar trend on a global scale, but the Netherlands seems to be suffering from an above average rise. In fact, since 1950 the temperature in the Netherlands has increased twice as much compared to the global average. This is most likely due to the changing wind patterns that come along with a changing climate. We are getting more and more wind from the warm south, which causes increased temperature rise in Central Europe.
Heatwaves in the Netherlands
Some people think a warming climate is not a bad thing. The Netherlands is not such a warm country, and we quite like France and Spain. However, when looking at average temperatures it is easy to overlook vital information. For example, we have seen that the temperature has most increased in summer, and least in winter. We see that hot days are becoming extremely hot.
We are also seeing more and more extreme heatwaves that are not only taking a human toll, but are also killing livestock and destroying nature and food sources. In the image below you will see the number of heatwaves per year since 1900. Where this was an exceptional event before 1970 (once a decade), now we see this happening 7 times in the last 10 years. This is a very worrying trend that will dramatically change our climate.
What will happen next?
The increase in temperature and frequency of heatwaves is expected to keep increasing. 40 degree heatwaves could become the rule for summer, with droughts and water restrictions during the hottest days.
In 2014 the Netherlands has published an official report of what is expected in the future. Unless we take drastic action, we can expect severe sea-level rise, increasing temperatures and increased drought. In their worst case scenario the sea level could rise with a full meter before the year 2100, which is a big problem for a country that is mostly below sea-level. Every report around the world shows that inaction will cost us much more dollars than taking action now. We simply cannot afford to wait for things to run out of control. A new report is expected in 2021.
What can we do?
Climate Change is happening, whether we acknowledge that or not. And to be more accurate, it is already happening today. The time of discussion should be long behind us, and even the time for action is quickly slipping away.
We are already seeing the effects all around the world. If we act swift and decisive, we can avoid the worse. If we sit back and wait, things will get real bad.
If not now, when?
If not you, who?
You can start by taking individual action. Eat more plant-based food, take holidays closer to home, enjoy smaller families. We can make a real difference. We can make changes that are not only better for the world, but also for ourselves. If you choose a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle, you will also inspire others to do the same. Public opinion is a massive driver of change, and together we can determine the future. I already wrote about changing the goal from money to happiness.
We need to keep putting pressures on those in powers. The 0.1% got us in this mess, don’t rely on them to get us out of it. This is on us.