Science

“If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, the highest priority must be to reduce CO2  pollution to zero at the earliest possible date.”

In 2018, children play in a fountain on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Photo by JOHN CETRINO/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (9826979k)

While it’s not quite so simple, experts have been saying for decades that climate change will bring more extreme heat.

According to reporting from The Boston Globe, it’s less about the temperature itself and more about time of year, number of days, and overall severity of a heat wave that shows the impact of climate change.

Though Boston declared a heat emergency Sunday through Tuesday, Wednesday was the fifth straight day with temperatures above 90 degrees. This ties a record for longest June heat wave (1925), according to the Globe, and represents many more hot days than is typical so early in the year.

The Globe reported that while one particular heat wave can’t be attributed to climate change — as it might have been hot this week even if CO2 levels were not so out of control — the length and severity of the heat wave were likely impacted by global warming.

Data shows climate change continues impacting temperatures

In a report from the Globe, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the number of 90 degree days in Boston and Milton, as well as the number of nights that don’t fall below 70 degrees, has been increasing since the late-1800s.

The warming atmosphere is due to increasing levels of greenhouse gasses, largely carbon dioxide, which, according to NOAA, have been steadily increasing since 1960. In a June 7 press release, NOAA announced that scientists at its Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory had measured the highest ever monthly average of atmospheric carbon dioxide, at 419 parts per million.

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“We are adding roughly 40 billion metric tons of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere per year,” said Pieter Tans, a senior scientist with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory. “That is a mountain of carbon that we dig up out of the Earth, burn, and release into the atmosphere as CO2 – year after year. If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, the highest priority must be to reduce CO2  pollution to zero at the earliest possible date.” 

After five days of 90-degree heat, local temperatures will finally start dropping on Thursday.