Antarctic heatwave

March: this temperature spike is the most alarming indication of the progression of climate change

Ipsos | Almanac 2022 | March | Climate
Ipsos | Almanac | Antarctica heatwave


Weathering the climate storm

With the numerous extreme weather events witnessed over the past year it is almost impossible to identify just one that stands out, but the heatwave recorded in Antarctica on 18 March set a new world record for the largest temperature excess above normal ever recorded at an established weather station.

This was the largest temperature excess above normal ever recorded – an excess of 38.5C – and this perhaps paints the bleakest picture of the potential impact of global warming in 2022. 

The heatwave recorded in Antarctica on 18 March set a new world record for the largest temperature excess above normal ever recorded at an established weather station

Although the temperature spike in Antarctica is possibly the most alarming indication of the extent and progression of climate change, it is not an event that really reached the consciousness of global citizens, governments and organisations around the world. The reason for this is that it did not impinge directly on human life and the ability to conduct business as usual. Rather, our attentions were drawn to the many weather events that did create huge disruption with significant displacement of people, fatalities, and millions of dollars’ worth of damage to homes and essential infrastructure.

Ipsos | Almanac | Climate | Disasters


A Year of Climate Events

For example, on 20 January, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique were subjected to tropical storm Ana, with the ensuing rain and subsequent flooding leaving more than 25 million dollars’ worth of damage in its wake and 142 fatalities. At about the same time almost 8,000 miles north, parts of Europe were experiencing extreme winter weather conditions. Snow blizzards hit Istanbul, carpeting it in 40cm of snow. And freezing temperatures hit parts of Poland with the coldest temperature recorded at -28C, causing significant travel disruption as the excessive cold cracked railway tracks.

February brought more weather-related deaths, this time across Europe when storms Dudley and Eunice hit in quick succession. March and April saw temperatures skyrocket and devastating forest fires in Pakistan and northern India, impacting crop yields and causing more than 90 deaths as temperatures reached more than 50C. April also saw flooding in South Africa with loss of life in the hundreds and more than a billion dollars’ worth of damage. In May, Hurricane Agatha hit Mexico, the strongest hurricane record for that month since records began, and although it quickly faded it left 11 people dead and the winds, which reached 105 mph, left more than 1 billion dollars of damage.

The extreme temperatures witnessed in Pakistan during the early part of the year were to have a cruel double effect on the population as the monsoon season started on 14 June, bringing three times the normal rainfall which during the next two months was to displace more than 30 million individuals from their homes, kill thousands of people and devastate agricultural land. 

This cycle is indicative of the effects of climate change where increasing global temperatures cause evaporation of water in one area and then cause extreme and excessive deposition of that water often in other areas of the globe. And with Pakistan having more glaciers than any other country – besides the Arctic and Antarctic – the protracted heat contributed to glacial melting which only acerbated the monsoon.

In June and July more record-breaking temperatures were seen across much of Europe and the parched landscape meant that wildfires were witnessed across France, Spain, and Portugal. The Southwest of France was hit particularly hard.

It was therefore not surprising that European countries, and France in particular, showed high levels of concern about climate change in September’s What Worries the World survey.

But Europe was not alone as wildfires also hit parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The UK also saw temperatures soaring above 40C in the middle of July with Ipsos polling showing that more than eight in 10 people (83%) thought it was “too hot”, and more than seven in 10 people think that any temperature above 25C is too hot.

The extreme temperatures continued into August with China also breaking temperature records and suffering wildfires and drought. Meanwhile in Western Canada, citizens were exposed to thunderstorms which unleashed huge hailstones, with one weighing in at almost 300g and measuring more than 12cm wide.

In September, the US was subjected to two extreme weather events. Hurricane Ian struck Florida, reaching a top speed of 157mph, wreaking havoc, and leaving more than 50 billion dollars of damage. In the first days of October, Ian moved on to create damage and destruction across many parts of South America. During the same period, on the West Coast of the US, parts of California were experiencing temperatures greater than 50C, with a world-breaking temperature of 53C recorded in Furnace Creek: the hottest ever September day on Earth.

A cyclone hit Bangladesh towards the end of October leaving 22 people dead and approximately 10 million people displaced. Due to low or no rainfall in the last quarter of the year, devastating droughts are being witnessed in the horn of Africa. Unfortunately, the new fund announced at COP27 to help compensate emerging and developing economies for loss and damage because of climate change will come too late for the millions suffering.

Ipsos | Almanac | Climate | Expectations


Public Expectations

With all that has been seen over the past year, it is not surprising that 71% across 34 countries expect the impacts of climate change to be “very or somewhat severe” in their area over the next 10 years and more than a third (35%) say it is likely that they and their families will be displaced from their homes as a result of climate change in the next 25 years.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that more action is needed and more quickly to tackle climate change. But whose responsibility is it to act?

Citizens clearly think government and businesses need to do more whereas scientists, NGOs and non-profits are over-indexing against expectations

Ipsos’ Earth Day research shows that, globally, the public believe that governments, businesses, and individuals all need to play their part, or risk failing others. However, when citizens are asked who is acting vs who should act. Citizens clearly think government and businesses need to do more whereas scientists, NGOs and non-profits are over-indexing against expectations.

When global citizens are asked which professions they have most trust in, it is not business and government that feature highly but instead doctors, scientists, and teachers. If progress is going to be made at pace, then the focus needs to radically shift to solutions – likely to be driven by science and investment in technology and underpinned by solid education and understanding.

It’s therefore comforting, despite a slightly muted COP27, that the weight of conversations was clearly towards investment in solutions and new technology which can be adopted quickly and at scale to help address climate change, rather than on lofty but less tangible commitments and targets.