There is no single definition of climate crisis hotspots
(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – In 2022, global warming reached about +1.11 ºC on pre-industrial levels, the second half of the 19th century. This value is a useful indicator for understanding the trajectory of global warming and its global consequences, but does not necessarily reflect regional realities. On a more local scale, global warming can also run much faster than average and have a more pronounced impact. Scientists call climate crisis hotspots the points where this happens.
What are climate crisis hotspots?
A single definition of the hotspots of the climate crisis does not exist. You can try different, but surely one of the most complete and useful to understand why the “hot spots” are important is the one that holds together climatic and social factors. Climate crisis hotspots are regions where the strong physical and ecological effects of climate change are reflected in particularly vulnerable and poor human communities. A good example is the delta of the main rivers in the world, where hundreds of millions of people are concentrated. They are only 1% of the Earth’s surface but host half a billion people. And they are particularly subject to rising sea levels and subsidence.
Other definitions remain on the climate front and underline the role of hotspots as “climate watchmen” with a global dimension: they anticipate trends that will occur elsewhere in the future, or they are places where the impact of climate change triggers mechanisms that will reverberate on a planetary scale. The first case is that of glaciers, the second is that of the North Pole and the phenomenon of Arctic amplification.
One of the most mentioned and important hotspots of the climate crisis is the Arctic region. It is the place on Earth where temperatures are rising faster and the thermal anomaly is more pronounced. In the Arctic, the temperature has already exceeded 2°C of global warming, more or less twice the average. In some specific regions, recent studies explain, the rate is much more pronounced. According to work published in Scientific Reports, the anomaly is up to 7 times as large as elsewhere. Between the archipelago of Svalbard and that of the Land of Francesco Giuseppe the thermal anomaly for decade is also of +2,71°C.
The tendency is increasing due to the phenomenon of Arctic amplification. The higher the temperature, the more the Arctic ice melts. This changes the albedo, the ability to reflect solar radiation and retain less heat. The increasingly exposed Arctic ocean absorbs more radiation than ice. The energy that accumulates in the Arctic is therefore increasing, and cascading has an impact on the melting speed of the ice pack.
Europe, and in particular the Mediterranean, are also considered hotspots of the climate crisis. The old continent, in 2022, was 2.3°C warmer than the pre-industrial age. The rate of increase of global warming is about double the global average. It is not the only indicator that qualifies it as a hotspot. In the last 42 years, Europe has seen an increase in the intensity and frequency of heat waves from 3 to 4 times greater than the rest of the world.
Not all seasons, in fact, are warming at the same speed. A 2022 study calculated that Mediterranean warming amplified by the global average occurs mainly during the summer. It can vary from 1.83 to 8.49°C depending on the emissive scenario considered, with the first value that corresponds to compliance with the limit of 1.5 degrees and the second that indicates the worst case scenario with a global warming of more than 4°C at the end of the century. By the end of the century and the high-emission scenario, a sharp and significant decrease in rainfall is expected in much of the region during the summer (-49% to -16%).