THE heat, in many parts of the world, has arrived early. It’s only May, but last weekend temperatures in some regions of Spain were around 15 degrees above average for the time of year. Rangers fans sizzled in Seville last week, the issue for some of them being lack of water at the game, and that was before, even, the mercury topped 41C at Seville airport on Friday.
Meanwhile, Pakistan and India have been gripped recently by a deadly heatwave, sandstorms have engulfed the Middle East and monthly temperature records were toppled in France and the United States, where the airport in Austin, Texas, hit 37C.
An early summer may seem reason to celebrate, but don’t imagine this means the heat will evaporate early. The forecast going on into this summer is one of increased likelihood of heatwaves across the Northern hemisphere. If heat is what you like, it’s looking likely.
Even the UK looks set to get more of it, with the Met Office predicting “warmer-than-average” conditions over the next few months, with chances of a heatwave higher than normal.
Meanwhile, as Covid restrictions have loosened, the wave has already begun of what an article in the Mirror recently described as “revenge holidays”, a sort of “take that!” to the pandemic. The Tui travel group, for instance, has seen an 11 per cent increase in summer bookings against summer 2019.
Before all those of us not crippled by the cost of living crisis jump to join the revenge booking wave, however, we might want to consider two things.
Firstly, temperatures of above 40C are not just uncomfortable, they create a risk to life – in fact anything upwards of 35C, research has shown, when combined with humidity, can be dangerous.
Spain recorded its highest ever temperature only last year, when the Andalucían town of Montoro near Cordoba hit 47C on August 15.
We are, so many of us, caught up in an idea, still, of the flight to the Med as being the dream escape. I love a Spanish holiday, and had been entertaining how to get there myself. But I, for one, don’t want to spend my precious days off, baked to a frazzle.
Secondly, let’s not forget how our flights themselves contribute to such rising temperatures. All that seems to have been entirely forgotten in the race to get back abroad. You would almost think the words staycation and flygskam had never been invented.
There are plenty of reasons to be bothered about this forecast summer of heatwaves. In France, for instance, the heat and dry conditions are straining the wheat crop. There are also predictions that parts of the world, mostly outside Europe, may suffer power outages due, as one Bloomberg article put it to “war plus climate change”.
Is anthropogenic climate change to blame for this recent heatwave in Spain?
Experts certainly say that global warming increases the frequency of such events. Quoted in the Washington Post, Robert Vautard, director of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, described how studies had shown that “all recent heat waves analysed in Western Europe… bear the signature of climate change,” He also observed that a global rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels would result in a doubling of such events.
Not only that, but a recent Met Office study found that record-breaking heatwaves in north-west India and Pakistan have been made 100 times more likely by the climate crisis. Blistering weather once expected every 300 years is now likely to happen every three years.
Yet still we fly. Still we seek our revenge on Covid for preventing us from living our dream. Although every flight we make is part of an emissions process that only makes such destinations less and less hospitable, we make these treats to ourselves, and take what we can while we can.
Before that holiday dream is entirely over – it is about time we created a new one.
I can see this already happening. It happened when, during Covid, we celebrated the beauty and wonder of the Scotland we live in. It’s there in an Autumn edition of Granta magazine devoted to travel with the title, Should We Have Stayed at Home? Increasing numbers of travel writers are even giving up flying. Among them is Helen Coffey, travel editor of The Independent, who recently wrote Zero Altitude: How I Learned to Fly Less and Travel More.
But those voices are still relatively rare. There’s still a cultural agreement that summers are made for flying south. I can feel that urge in myself. Reluctant to believe that by living this holiday dream, I might be playing a part in destroying it.