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Smoke rises over the mountains in Lytton in British Columbia, as Canadian firefighters battle fires on July 6. Photo: Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The historic heat wave that struck the Pacific Northwest would have been "virtually impossible without human-caused climate change," an international team of climate researchers said in a new report.

Of note: The World Weather Attribution's analysis, published Wednesday, found that the record-setting heat that triggered wildfires and was linked to hundreds of deaths was a one-in-a-1,000-year event that "would have been at least 150 times rarer without human-induced climate change."

Driving the news: Multiple cities in Oregon, Washington and the western provinces of Canada recorded temperatures "far above 104°F," noted the report.

What they did: 27 researchers from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland spent just over a week using 21 climate models to work out how much climate change influenced the heat in areas around the cities of Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver in Canada — covering a total population of more than 9 million.

  • Although their study has yet to be peer-reviewed, the scientists used published peer-reviewed methods to conduct their analysis.
  • They used computer simulations to compare the climate as it is today to what it would be like were there no human-induced warming, with greenhouse gases.

What else they found: This heat wave was about 2°C (3.6°F) hotter than it would have been if it had occurred at the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 19th century "when global mean temperatures were 1.2°C [2.2°F] cooler than today," the study noted.

  • Maximum temperatures in several areas were up to 9 degrees higher than previous records — "by far the largest jump in the records," noted Friederike Otto, of Oxford University in England, to the New York Times. "We have seen quite big increases, but never that big."

What to watch: "Looking into the future, in a world with 2°C of global warming (0.8°C warmer than today which at current emission levels would be reached as early as the 2040s), this event would have been another degree hotter," said the study.

  • "An event like this — currently estimated to occur only once every 1,000 years, would occur roughly every 5 to 10 years in that future world with 2°C of global warming."

The bottom line: "There is a clear human fingerprint on this particular extreme heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, and in general on extreme heatwaves everywhere in the modern era we're living though," said Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist who was not involved in the study, to Reuters.

Go deeper: Welcome to our hellscape summer

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the heat wave was 3.6°F hotter than in the 19th century, and that global mean temperatures were 2.2°F cooler then.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 22, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on bold climate commitments

On Wednesday, September 22nd, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and energy reporter Ben Geman hosted a virtual conversation on the innovative approaches climate leaders are undertaking to reshape standards for sustainability initiatives in 2022 and beyond, featuring White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp.

Gina McCarthy explained the Biden administration’s recent environmental priorities, the importance of mobilizing different communities to fight climate change, and how the White House is incentivizing private industries to reduce their emissions.   

  • On addressing extreme heat problems: "I think everybody’s beginning to understand as the President tours the sites of wildfires and flooding and other really big challenges like drought, there’s this silent killer for climate change that’s called excess heat, that really doesn’t get enough attention."
  • On cross-agency collaboration on climate change at a federal level: “It’s an exciting moment where people across the federal government are working together in ways they have never done before, not just to tackle wildfires and droughts and flooding and heat stress, but also to tackle the challenge of how we motivate our business sector and send them all the signals you would want us to send that shows that President Biden is committed to achieving net zero in 2050, and knows that this decade is a decisive decade.”

Fred Krupp highlighted how companies must be held accountable to pledges to reduce their emissions, how some corporations are breaking with lobby associations to become more vocal about climate change (and others are not), and how he believes debates surrounding the infrastructure bill will play out in the near future. 

  • On how corporate lobbying has fallen short: “Right now, we don’t see enough corporations lobbying on behalf of the climate sections of the reconciliation bill. This bill that’s pending in Congress is our once in a decade opportunity to get something done on climate.” 
  • On public support for the infrastructure bill: “I see an enormous amount of support in the American public for moving ahead with a sort of clean energy economy that are going to create tremendous numbers of jobs, clean the air, make people healthier.” 

Axios VP of Communications Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with GE’s Chief Sustainability Officer Roger Martella, who discussed how GE is following through on their ESG goals by investing in sustainable energy technologies. 

  • “We create some of the most technically complex and critical technologies the world needs, and we’re focused today on innovating these technologies on a path to decarbonization.” 

Thank you GE for sponsoring this event.

What "success" means at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The upcoming UN climate meeting in Glasgow, scheduled to begin in six weeks, may be one of the trickiest for diplomats to navigate since such meetings began more than two decades ago.

Why it matters: The summit comes as scientists warn that the window for keeping alive the Paris Agreement's most ambitious and longshot temperature target is nearly shut, yet emissions cuts are urgently needed to prevent potentially catastrophic climate impacts.

Tom Steyer: Private companies starting to invest more in climate solutions

Photo: Axios

The world will have to spend four trillion dollars a year to solve the climate crisis, Tom Steyer, the billionaire founder of Farallon Capital, said at an Axios virtual event on Thursday, but private businesses will play a crucial role.

Why it matters: Steyer's comments come two weeks after the billionaire launched Galvanize, a climate tech investment platform that will back companies from the seed-stage through private equity and project finance.