The Northern Hemisphere is experiencing record-breaking heat waves. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you probably know that it has been quite hot. Some parts of the United States are bracing for a record heat wave this week, while wildfires are already spreading in the American West.

The earliest heat wave on record in Greece led to the closure of the famous Acropolis of Athens and the collapse and, in some cases, the death of several hikers in parts of the Mediterranean country. More than a dozen Muslim pilgrims died from heatstroke on the way to Mecca, as the annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia was plagued by extreme temperatures.

All of this seems normal. Before the start of summer, heat waves had already hit various parts of the planet, from Bangkok to Barranquilla. In late May, more than 1.5 billion people – almost a fifth of the planet’s population – endured at least one day where the heat index exceeded 39.4 degrees Celsius, the threshold that the National Weather Service considers potentially deadly.

Researchers predict that several years of the next decade will break temperature records. May also marked the twelfth consecutive month in which global average temperatures exceeded all observations since 1850.

A report released this month by a group of 57 scientists suggests that human activities were responsible for 92% of the observed warming last year, which was the hottest year on record. Scientists also expect that at least one of the years in the next half-decade will surpass the record for the world’s average annual temperature observed in 2023.

Researchers have linked the temperature increase to the El Niño weather pattern and decades of global warming due to human emissions of greenhouse gases. A decade ago, scientists estimated that the chances of the planet warming 1.5 degrees Celsius – the threshold above pre-industrial levels at which a climate disaster for the planet is spelled out, according to scientific consensus – by 2020 were almost nil. Now, the probability of that happening in 2028 is estimated at 8 out of 10.

In other words, the climate disaster is already here in many ways. By the middle of the century, about 5 billion people on the planet will be exposed to a month of dangerously extreme heat when outdoors in the sun, as projected by my colleagues last year. By 2030, that number will already be 4 billion people.

In April, a record-breaking heat wave in Asia saw temperatures ranging from 37.7 to 48.8 degrees Celsius from the Philippines to India. «Across Asia, thousands of records are being broken, by far the most extreme phenomenon in world climatic history,» wrote meteorology historian Maximiliano Herrera.

This supposed effect of climate change also illustrates the growing global divide in how it is experienced. «Long-term projections indicate that future warming will also result in milder winters, which will not affect the wealthy Northern Global population,» wrote my colleague Harry Stevens. «But in warmer, less wealthy countries – places where people have fewer chances to buy air conditioning units, where poor workers can least afford to miss work, where water is scarcer, and the electrical grid is more unstable – summer heat will become more dangerous.»

Research indicates a greater vulnerability to extreme heat in poorer, less developed regions. For good reason, public health experts fear for the resilience of communities living in the era of climate change. The latest World Resilience Index from the Risk Survey, compiled by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation from data collected by Gallup, found a global increase among 147,000 people surveyed in 142 countries of «people who say they cannot do anything to protect themselves and their families from the impact of a future disaster.»

Climate change looms over these feelings, fueling what the index authors suggest is «a global loss of agency and a growing sense of helplessness.» The index scores levels of individual and social resilience – defined as «the ability of people to cope with the shocks they face in their lives and to return to ‘normalcy’ or near normalcy afterward» – around the world.

Nancy Hey, Director of Evidence and Insights at the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, an independent global charity, told me that the group’s research «clearly shows that some people are more vulnerable than others, and the poorest fifth of households are disproportionately more likely to have lower resilience scores than the more affluent.»

She added that gender disparities also come into play: «Women’s resilience scores are equal to or lower than men’s in the 141 countries in the Index, underscoring the importance of empowering women as a key element of climate resilience interventions.»

But the political landscape in the West does not suggest much attention is being paid to these issues. In Europe, environmental policies have sparked a right-wing nationalist backlash in both national elections and the recent European Union parliamentary vote.

In the United States, federal scientists from several agencies focused on the environment are desperately trying to find ways to protect their work and government mandates in case former President Donald Trump returns to power, a vocal opponent of many of the regulations and protections they defend.

Meanwhile, climate alarms are ringing. «For a year now, every turn of the calendar has raised the temperature,» said UN Secretary-General António Guterres this month. «Our planet is trying to tell us something. But it seems we are not listening.»