In Spain, the month of October begins with temperatures above 30 ℃ in most of the peninsular territory. If we look back, these values can be considered, as AEMET points out, “exceptionally high”, more than 10 ℃ above normal for these dates. Now, if we look ahead, they should not surprise us.
The Mediterranean basin is one of the regions of the globe most sensitive to climate change. Instrumental records show that in Spain summer has been lengthening since the late 1970s at a rate of almost one day per year and climate models agree that, most likely, this path will continue in the coming decades.
On the other hand, greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, their concentration in the atmosphere, continue to increase. News such as the relaxation of environmental policies in the United Kingdom or the delay in the application of the Euro7 regulation to reduce emissions from motor vehicles in the EU suggests that we are still far from reaching maximum concentration and that compliance The 2 ℃ limit according to the Paris agreements is becoming more and more complicated (it is almost certain that we will not meet the 1.5 ℃ limit).
An increasingly hot world
To properly interpret this panorama, it must be taken into account that a greater concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere not only increases the global temperature of the planet, but also increases the total energy of the climate system.
We can consider temperature as an indicator of the energy available in the atmosphere. So it is easy to understand that each tenth of a degree increase is relevant, not only because it will be hotter, but because the system becomes more and more energetic. This translates into relevant changes in the dynamics of air masses and, therefore, precipitation and other meteorological variables.
We are therefore faced with a new, more extreme meteorology. What used to happen little, now happens more. And what was not very intense before is now very intense. This requires significantly increasing resources allocated to adaptation.
The different records show that since the beginning of the 21st century we have entered a new “normality”, which will also evolve; As long as emissions continue to increase, the situation will not stabilize and these processes will intensify.
Ultimately, the extension of the so-called “San Miguel summer” is another example of this new normality to which we must get used to. Very likely in five or ten years these values that are now recorded will not be news, they will not be “exceptionally high”, but rather something common, since every so often we will see how previous records are broken. In fact, it is estimated that every two years half of the world’s population will see previous records broken.
Life on the planet is at stake
All of these are manifestations of what we initially call climate change, later global warming, and lately the climate emergency and crisis. But it is not a specific or temporary problem.
It must be taken into account that carbon dioxide, the most relevant greenhouse gas, remains in the atmosphere for dozens of years once emitted and that we currently do not have technologies that allow it to be removed from the atmosphere on a large scale. This explains the great inertia of the problem: even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide now, the results would take decades to be seen.
From my point of view, to the extent that a disruptive technology that solves the problem does not appear on the horizon, rather than a crisis or an emergency, for the generations that currently inhabit the Earth it is a chronic problem of increasing intensity. And as such we must approach it.
What is at stake is not the planet. The Earth has experienced very profound climatic and environmental changes in its millions of years of existence, although none with the speed and intensity that the human species is causing. The planet will continue to exist, what is at stake is the survival of many species of living beings, including humans.
The implementation of measures to decarbonize the economy will entail profound social changes that will affect all sectors and strata of society. The process towards this final goal can be done in many different ways. It is in our hands that the transition is as quick and fair as possible, avoiding inequalities and loss of rights and ensuring that the resulting situation represents an improvement in the quality of life of the majority of people, especially the most vulnerable.