"Climate change is here. It is terrifying, and it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended. The era of global boiling has arrived."

The words of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the end of July are striking in their starkness. It is hard to be positive when it seems like every day there is a new warning about how bad things are and how much worse they can get. But there is hope.

The Deputy director of Copernicus, the EU's climate change service, says that people can take action once they are armed with the right information.

Copernicus says, as they had predicted, July was the hottest month on Earth on record.

The month is estimated to have been around 1.5C warmer than the average for 1850 to 1900, or preindustrial times.

That 1.5C is problematic for several reasons, according to Dr Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of Copernicus.

Dr Samantha Burgess says that about half the sea level rise to date is from thermal expansion

She says that the global community came together during COP 21 in Paris in 2015 and committed to limit global warming to two degrees, but ideally 1.5 degrees [above preindustrial average temperatures].

"We also know from the scientific evidence that there's a huge number of tipping points of our Earth system that may happen around 1.5C, such as changes in ocean circulation, changes in the stability of the ice sheets and glaciers across the Alps and around the world," Dr Burgess said.

"So, limiting global temperatures to below 1.5C is really important. We also know that there is an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme events the warmer our planet gets."

Dr Burgess says that limiting temperature increases to 1.5C and, ideally, slowly dropping off once we have got to net zero emissions will enable us to stabilise our climate and understand what the implications are to the earth system and adapt and manage accordingly.

The other dangerous tipping point is rising sea levels, something Ireland as an island nation is keenly aware of.

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Dr Burgess says that about half the sea level rise that has existed to date is from thermal expansion.

"As water warms up, it takes up more space than cooler water. The other half is of course from melting ice sheets and glaciers, so as warmer temperatures happen, it destabilises these ice sheets and glaciers, which may lead to an escalation in the rate of sea level rise, which means worse storms and impacts coastal communities around the world," she said.

So, what can we do to reduce rising sea levels?

"One of the things that's really important for me as a as a climate scientist, is that it's not all doom and gloom about the statistics," Dr Burgess said.

"But it's enabling people to take action armed with accurate, trusted information. So first, the reality is that climate change is here, so we need to adapt to the existing climate that we have right now."

Spain and Portugal are experiencing their third heatwave this summer, with temperatures in the early to mid-40s forecast this week.

A street thermometer reads 45C during a heatwave in Cordoba, southern Spain

As July in Ireland was record-breaking for another reason, namely rain, it can be hard not to feel a pang of envy at how the other half live.

But experiencing those temperatures, never mind working, living and sleeping in them, can be crippling.

Europe is warming twice as fast as the global average since the 1980s, according to the World Meteorological Organization. And that is causing excess deaths and economic problems.

Dr Burgess said that Europeans suffered more heat stress in 2022 than ever before, and "heat stress obviously leads to excess deaths".

She points to recent research that showed that last summer’s heatwaves led to more than 60,000 extra deaths from heat, stress and heat-related fatalities, saying "we really need to adapt to our current climate...so we can survive and thrive".

The flip side is that "we need to mitigate, we need to turn off the tap of the emissions, the greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere, to stabilise the climate as quickly as possible".