Climate change ‘out of control’, UN says, after hottest week on record

Eamon Ryan sees hope in ‘alternative path’ of embracing wind and solar power

UN secretary general António Guterres has warned “climate change is out of control”, as an unofficial analysis of data showed average world temperatures in the seven days to Wednesday were the hottest week on record.

“If we persist in delaying key measures that are needed, I think we are moving into a catastrophic situation,” Mr Guterres said yesterday.

The average global air temperature was 17.18 degrees on Tuesday, according to data collated by the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), surpassing the record 17.01 degrees reached on Monday. By Thursday it had reached 17.23 degrees.

For the seven-day period ending on Wednesday, the daily average temperature was .04 degrees higher than in any week in 44 years of record-keeping, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer data.


The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose figures are considered the gold standard in climate data, said it could not validate the unofficial numbers. It monitors global temperatures on a monthly and annual basis.

These temperatures indicate climate change is reaching uncharted territory and that increased heat from man-made global warming combined with the return of El Niño – a sporadic warming pattern – will lead to more record-breaking temperatures, numerous climate scientists have predicted.

“Chances are that the month of July will be the warmest ever, and with it the hottest month ever... ‘ever’ meaning since the Eemian [interglacial period], which is indeed some 120,000 years ago,” said Dr Karsten Haustein, a research fellow in atmospheric radiation at Leipzig University.

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Various parts of the world are experiencing heatwaves, while the EU’s climate monitoring service Copernicus said on Thursday the world had experienced its hottest June on record last month. An unprecedented marine heatwave is affecting seas off the northwest of Ireland that are 4-5 degrees warmer than normal.

One of the largest contributors to recent records is an exceptionally mild winter in the Antarctic. Parts of the continent and nearby ocean experienced temperatures 10-20 degrees higher than averages from 1979 to 2000.

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan told the Mary Robinson Climate Conference in Ballina, Co Mayo, yesterday the temperature trends risked “unravelling of the natural systems on which our security depends”.

Given extreme temperatures globally, fear was understandable, he said, though there was hope in the “alternative path which is also available” – especially in embracing wind and solar power.

Speaking at the conference, Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisín Coghlan said climate anxiety was increasingly intruding into his life. Referring to reports of the overall hottest days recorded in human history, he said “Climate breakdown is here... and the target of limiting rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees is on life support.”

He described how his normal feelings about the climate crisis were breaking down and he had come to the view that just communicating about it was no longer enough. “Politicians and governments are not seeing it as a threat and are not responding as if it is an emergency,” he said.

“I am struggling between fear and hope. We are going to need to be unreasonable because reasonableness has not moved the dial. Why can’t we use fear in the face of an existential threat? Only when the climate is on the lips of their constituents will the politicians respond,” he added. – Additional reporting Guardian

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times