Europe’s record summer temperatures ‘impossible’ without climate change

Last summer, forecasters recorded temperatures close to 1C above the 1991 to 2020 average across Europe. Credit: PA

Europe’s hottest summer on record would not have happened without human-induced climate change, the Met Office has said.

Last summer, forecasters recorded temperatures close to 1 degree Celsius above the 1991 to 2020 average across Europe.

During the record-breaking hot spell, a new European maximum temperature record was set in Syracuse, Sicily, where temperatures reached 48.8C, beating the previous European high of 48C recorded in Athens in 1977.

ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie reported in August on the rising temperatures across Europe and the impact of climate change

Scientists then analysed data by using a large collection of computer simulations to compare the climate as it is today - with about 1C of global warming - with the climate as it would have been without human influence, using the same methods as in past peer-reviewed studies.

They concluded the spike in temperatures would have been “impossible” without human-induced climate change.

The researchers added that without climate change, the rise would have taken place only once in 10,000 years.

Met Office climate attribution scientist, Dr Nikos Christidis, who led the analysis, said: “This latest attribution study is another example of how climate change is already making our weather extremes more severe.

"Our analysis of the European summer of 2021 shows that what is now a one in three-year event would have been almost impossible without human-induced climate change”.

Wildfires raged across parts of Greece in August as the country endured its worst heatwave in decades

Science fellow Professor Peter Stott, who researches climate attribution at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: “We can be more confident than we’ve ever been about linking extreme weather events to climate change.

“The increasing chances of these extreme events continue to rise as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases. The science is clear that the faster we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, the more we can avoid the most severe impacts of climate change”.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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The new analysis comes as leaders and policy makers from across the world come together for negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow. Several countries have outlined pledges at the conference, including India, which announced it would cut emissions to net zero by 2070, China, which has said it will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 and a net zero commitment by 2050 from Vietnam. Scientists have said there needs to be a global goal to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 to avoid temperature rises above 1.5C and to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.