Japan has been punished by extreme heat in recent weeks. We are not alone, however: Record-breaking high temperatures are a global phenomenon this summer, and scorching heat waves are one manifestation of extreme weather that is itself widely believed to be the result of climate change. This is not a one-off experience: This is the new normal. Governments and societies must do more to stop climate change — reduce greenhouse gas emissions — as well as work to mitigate the impact of this grim reality.

The heat wave that has descended upon Japan has claimed dozens of lives. According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 65 people died from heat-related illnesses and 22,647 people were emergency-treated for heat stroke in one week in mid-July, the most in a decade. Temperatures hit 41.1 degrees in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, the hottest reading ever in Japan. As summer festivals across the country were canceled or rescheduled, 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games organizers pondered plans to ensure that the summer heat does not ruin the games.

Other regions are suffering too. South Asia experienced record-setting heat waves this spring. All-time high temperatures have been recorded across North America, Britain, Europe, Africa and Russia. In Quriyat, Oman, temperatures did not drop below 42.6 C for an entire 24-hour period, the highest "minimum" temperature ever recorded on Earth. On July 5, a weather station in the Algerian Sahara noted a temperature of 51.3 C, the highest ever reached in Africa. The next day, Los Angeles recorded its own high of 43.9 C.