By Natalya Dzyubenko, The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — Nearly 60 percent of the globe will see more extreme heat each year by the end of the century and the climate can expect another series of devastating heat waves around the world, according to a first-of-its-kind U.N. report meant to spur action to slow climate change.
Much of northern Europe could suffer a fourth consecutive year of “very intense” heat waves, parts of the Middle East could see more severe and deadly heatwaves and large areas of central and eastern Africa and much of South America could experience more severe heat waves, according to the U.N. report released Thursday.
Worries about a fourth consecutive year of high temperatures in Europe triggered heated debate between countries and humanitarian groups.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Europe has already had several years of intense heat, particularly in Germany, and “this is dangerous.”
But Austria’s Social Democratic Party warned that already “experienced people are suffering very seriously from lack of cold, of lack of drinking water, of heat waves.”
At a press conference in Bonn, Germany, where the report was released, the U.N. climate chief, Patricia Espinosa, urged governments to go forward with a global deal on combating climate change after the U.S. pulled out last year and a quarrel over land use threatened to scuttle negotiations.
But not everyone was sold on the report. The National Journal’s Kathryn Joyce argues that “while an ice-free Arctic will threaten some life, especially among polar bears, anyone hoping that an ice-free Arctic will be catastrophic is likely to be disappointed.”
Britain’s Financial Times, meanwhile, dismissed the report as “rubbish” because it “removes the most important point: that human beings are the sole cause of the changes and humans will therefore need to radically slow their emissions, radically reduce their use of fossil fuels and radically slow their use of [food crops] for fuel.”
Many governments insisted the warning was not a “rerun” of previous assessments.
Andrew Jones, co-director of Climate Interactive, a climate modeling and forecasting firm that reviewed the report for the U.N., said it was not a statistical evaluation of the data, but a scientific one.
“The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer, that temperatures will rise further and that the planet is warming faster than has been measured or predicted,” he said.
Climate experts agreed that the report’s findings would lead to “high confidence” that the world was facing worsening extreme heat.
“We expect warming to continue for a while. The long-term trend is much more significant than short-term variations,” said Pei-Nyuoc Su, lead author of the report and a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
The report looked at how the planet had warmed since 1895 — from about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) to 2.7 degrees (1.7 degrees Celsius) — and it projected how it could heat up by the end of the century.
Unlike previous reports, this one considered extremely hot days, the extra heat they bring, and heat waves, which happen more often than low temperature spikes. The report also considered events, such as droughts or intense storms, that scientists had found were linked to climate change.
The report found that some regions would experience more hot days, including the temperate countries of northern Europe and high latitudes in Russia, Canada and Eurasia.
Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, and western and northwestern China would experience more hot days.
But the report concluded that for the southern United States — including Gulf states, California, the central United States and parts of Canada — the amount of hot days would decrease over the next 80 years as the area warmed and storms and droughts became less common.
The new projections won’t make much difference on the ground, according to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose state has the highest rate of wildfires and would see more extreme and longer fire seasons in the future.
But Ferguson said he’s reassured to see that the report was also concerned about people who live near forests and regions where there is still relatively little forest.
A fire hydrant system stands guard over the devastation of the Soberanes fire in California’s Big Sur in 2016. The area could face more severe wildfires as the temperatures rise. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)