Days with extreme heat are likely becoming more frequent

Hi, this is Gregor with a new Weekly Chart about depressing climate change reports.

Two weeks ago, the IPCC published their Sixth Assessment Report on the state of the global climate. And, boy, it’s not looking good. The human influence on the climate is “unequivocal”; the scale of recent changes is unprecedented over many thousands of years; and it’s already causing many heatwaves (record temperatures in Italy and Spain last week), floods (hundreds of people dead or still missing after floods in Germany and Belgium in July), wildfires (Greece and Turkey), droughts, and tropical storms.

And, despite knowing all this, we are still collectively on a fast track toward the climate apocalypse! Global warming will exceed 1.5 and 2 degrees unless “deep reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions occur, and they have to occur fast!

It is hard for many people (myself included) to understand what a global mean temperature increase actually means, so last year I tried explaining the effects of different degrees of warming. For this week’s episode, I thought about another way to make warming degrees a little less abstract and a little more scary.

So, here’s my newest attempt:

Chart choices

Before closing, here are a few charting decisions worth pointing out:

  • Instead of abstract yearly averages, we're looking at maximum temperatures, which is what people are actually experiencing when they go outside in the middle of a day.
  • Instead of looking at aggregated maximum temperatures, we're looking at the number of days exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, which I called "extremely hot days." Everybody knows what 40 C or more feels like.
  • The annotations use relative terms like "X years from now" to help the reader get a better sense of future dates like 2060. (Even better would be a personalized chart that says "When you are Y years old.")
  • In addition to the "business as usual" scenario, I included one of the more optimistic scenarios used in the IPCC report.
  • Finally, instead of looking at the global climate, we're looking at projections made for a specific region: Europe.

If you're interested in more (depressing) outlooks, I recommend checking out the IPCC Interactive Atlas, which lets you look at various regional datasets and scenarios.

That's it for this week. In case you want to visualize other IPCC datasets in Datawrapper, here's the script I used to load and transform the data. See you next Thursday!