This week, more than 1,000 temperature records broke around the world, many of them shattered by extreme heat. Hundreds have perished while making the Hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site, Mecca, while some 100 million people are under a heat advisory in the United States.

The total number of heat-related deaths isn’t yet clear, but at least hundreds have died in an unseasonably early heat wave; in India, which has seen some of the most extreme temperatures, at least 100 people have died in the last three months due to heat.

The heatwaves are “the fingerprint of climate change,” experts said, and are a glimpse of what’s to come as human-induced climate change continues to amplify extreme weather. “It should be obvious that dangerous climate change is already upon us,” a climate scientist told The Washington Post. “People will die because of global warming on this very day.”


It’s early in the summer for these kinds of temperatures, and scientists say that might make the heat even more dangerous. Earlier-than-usual heat can catch people by surprise, one climate scientist said, because their bodies don’t have enough time to acclimate to rising temperatures. Climate change also means heat waves are coming earlier and earlier every year, putting more people at risk.

As extreme weather becomes more common, experts say it’s crucial that cities update their infrastructure to handle the heat. “The longer it takes us to catch up the more lives are on the line,” said the director of climate resilience and sustainability at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a US-based climate non-profit.

The threat of climate change is grave but research shows many people are still skeptical of the climate crisis’ effect on their lives. Between 2000 and 2019, extreme heat killed an estimated 489,000 people per year, according to the World Meteorological Organization; Last year, 14% of Americans said there was no concrete evidence of climate change.

The effects of climate change may be irreversible, but scientists say humans could lessen future warming by stopping greenhouse gas emissions. A seminal 2023 UN report advised that nations would need to immediately stop using fossil fuels to prevent dangerous overheating in the next decade.

Many people don’t realize how quickly extreme heat can become deadly, experts told The Associated Press, particularly when conditions are humid. In fact, extreme heat kills more people in the US each year than hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes combined.


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