Scientists declared July the warmest month ever recorded globally on Monday as a leaked report showed that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at a safe level unless there is a transformation in the way that land is treated.
Analysis by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) revealed that global average temperatures were 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels for the month, trumping the figures for July 2016, the previous warmest month on record.
Western Europe was warmer than average thanks to a heatwave in the last week of the month with record high temperatures recorded in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, while Paris experienced its hottest day ever.
In the lead-up to July, which is traditionally the hottest month of the year on the planet, the warmest June on record was marked as hot air led to a short heatwave across most of Europe and wildfires spread through eastern Russia.
Scientists at the C3S have linked the rise to climate change.
Jean-Noël Thépaut, head of the C3S, said: “While July is usually the warmest month of the year for the globe, according to our data it also was the warmest month recorded globally by a very small margin.
“With continued greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting impact on global temperatures, records will continue to be broken in the future.”
The warning came after a draft of a report compiled by a UN body, due to be published this week, claimed that humans were exploiting 72 per cent of the planet’s ice-free surface, causing huge damage.
The study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific assessment of how global warming and land use interact.
It states that climate change cannot be solved solely by slashing emissions from transport, factories and power plants, because land abuse is a huge factor in the crisis.
Agriculture, forestry and other land use total up to almost a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While around half of all methane gas emissions come from cattle and rice fields.
The IPCC has warned that a rise in temperature higher than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels could trigger climate destabilisation.
The report warns that rising global temperatures will only exacerbate the problems in the way land is used in the future.
“Climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, wind, sea-level rise and wave action,” the report states.
Scientists, who are still debating the report in Geneva, Switzerland, say that there will be a battle for land to produce biofuels, forests and food production for the growing population.
Converting land areas the size of India and the United States to produce CO2-absorbing trees, which would help with gas emissions and global warming, "could compromise sustainable development with increased risks — and potentially irreversible consequences — for food security, desertification and land degradation", the report says.
Although they admit the issue is complex and will be difficult to tackle, the reports’ authors have recommended a number of changes to the way humans live, including changing diets to cut down on meat consumption and therefore reducing methane gas emissions, and eating more vegetables.
“The consumption of healthy and sustainable diets, such as those based on coarse grains, pulses and vegetables, and nuts and seeds … presents major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.
A big change in the way that land is used is also needed to address the climate crisis. The measures the report recommends includes safeguarding peatlands - instead of using them for farming – and protecting as much natural forest as there is left.