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The Planet Is Experiencing the Most Intense Collective Heat Wave Ever

From rampant wildfires to a record-breaking heat wave, the effects of climate change are being felt in Europe, the U.S., and beyond in 2022.

Written by
Calin Van Paris

It’s a cruel summer: a global heat wave is sparking news, conversation, and wildfires. Thus far, the season has brought with it a line-up of record-breaking temperatures, resulting in advisories and warnings, blazes across Europe and North Africa, and, this week, potential for the hottest days ever in the central U.S.

Aside from the obvious discomfort of a heat wave (simply inconvenient for some, devastating and fatal for others), the dramatic weather delivers the concept of climate change from cerebral to literal—all you have to do is step outside. 

More than 1,000 people have reportedly died from heat-related causes in Spain and Portugal; 35,000 acres have burned in France's Gironde regional fire; Shanghai issued its highest heat alert for the third time this summer; and Britain is readying for its hottest day on record.

Stateside, this week is slated to bring highs of up to 110 degrees to areas of Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, with warnings in effect in Southern California and parts of the Southwest. In Texas, residents are being urged to conserve water and power (heat plus drought equals a threat to these vital resources), all while experiencing an influx of insects and critters looking for relief from the sweltering sun. Oklahoma is expecting temperatures of 100 degrees and up for the next week. While heat is a summer reality, the New York Times notes that certain cities have already exceeded the number of 100-degree days typical for an entire season.

From land to sea, fire seasons to hurricanes, extreme weather is fast becoming our new normal. And though the U.S. legislation needed to address climate change is moving far slower than the world's wildfires, there are still things that we can do to reduce our individual footprints—for the sake of hope, if nothing else.

For now, stay as safe as possible (use these tips on how to stay cool in the summer heat), help your neighbors (human and animal alike), and do your best to transmute your climate anxiety into positive action.