A number of extreme weather events in the recent past have shown how climate change has come with full force. Climate disasters are a natural part of weather but their effects have greatly increased over time. Humans have always faced heat waves, floods, droughts, and storms but never as destructive as seen in recent climate change events. Scientists have observed that human-induced climate change has intensified 70% of the 400 incidents lately. It has not only made the global temperature abnormal and unpredictable but also changed the entire atmosphere of many regions.
These weather conditions that were long predicted and emphasized by climate scientists cannot be ignored anymore. The global climate is a complex system made up of earth, water, wind, sun, rain, snow, forests, deserts, and humans. Everything is interconnected through a special relationship with each other and is affected by the activity of one another. Understandably, the activity of humans is turning out to be most problematic which is causing the entire system to malfunction. It has led to highly abnormal weather patterns that were never seen since the pre-industrialization era.
5 Climate Change Events that Raise Alarm
The sun is arguably the main source for organic life to sustain on planet Earth. Around 1500 years ago when 2 massive volcanos erupted, the sky was covered with black dust that allowed little to no warmth from the sun. As a result, the temperatures dropped, crops died, people died, the bubonic plague spread and wiped out one-third of the Roman Empire. Life only returned to normal after the dust in the sky fell to Earth. However, today Earth is facing an opposite problem. Now the Sun is providing energy with full force but most of it is getting trapped in Earth’s atmosphere because the planet is getting warmer itself.
It is called the greenhouse effect that takes place after carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. Humans burning coal and fossil fuels to get energy are two common examples and also the main reasons. It has worsened the effects of climate change events and all preventive efforts are failing. Here are the major events that happened in recent months:
Many European countries have been affected by catastrophic floods since July 2021. The floods were already severe which became deadly due to heavy rainfall assisted by human activity. There were more than 3.67 inches of rain in a single day around Ahr and Erft rivers, which set a new rainfall record in Germany killing about 190 people. At least 38 died in Belgium due to 4.17 inches of rain, breaking yet another record. Scientists calculated that the flood caused by this rain became up to 9 times more likely due to human-induced global warming. Videos from Belgium showed cars being swept away in a pool of water. Reportedly there were curfews overnight to prevent possible rioting and looting. The world was perhaps living with the notion that only backward areas or the countries left behind in the race of globalization were prone to flooding. However, recent results show that not even developed countries are safe from climate change.
Other countries that were affected by the flooding included Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. The individuals experience the worst flood ever in their countries. There were broken homes, destroyed bridges, ruined parks, and piles of garbage all over. For the locals, it seemed impossible to clean all that up and rebuild. According to the reports, more than 1300 people were still missing due to which German forces deployed 15,000 units to assist rescue efforts.
Scientists have criticized the world leaders for effectively delaying climate action despite desperate calls for protection against extreme weather. Forecasters claimed that their clear warnings always came well before disastrous climate change events but politicians never took them seriously.
Climate change also had an impact on fires that have been getting stronger each year. As last year’s wildfire in Australia was among the most tragic events in 2020. The US is also facing rapidly expanding wildfires in several regions. According to the reports, at least 90 massive wildfires are currently burning America. They have damaged over 2.5 million acres of land, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes. The amount of smoke has put 7 western states under poor air quality alert. Reportedly, these states are California, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. The air quality level is expected to fluctuate causing unhealthy circumstances for human life. One of the most concerning fires is the Caldor Fire in California’s El Dorado County.
According to reports Caldor fire has been burning since 14th August and has scorched 199,000 acres of land. More than 1500 firefighters have been trying to put out a massive fire that has burned over 2000 structures including houses, institutions, and commercial properties. Reports added that a further 20,000 are at risk while around 50,000 people have been evacuated till now. According to the latest update, 18% of the fire has been contained but it was expected that all of it would be contained by 31st August. The Caldor fire canceled their expectations on 30th August and grew 8.5 miles more towards the east. The containment dropped from 19% to 14% overnight.
Similarly, Dixie Fire that started on 14th July in Butte County, California has burned over 814,000 acres. Reportedly, 48% of the fire is contained which is now spreading at a much slower pace as opposed to its rapid ignition. According to reports, it has destroyed about 1300 structures including 700 homes while 13,000 more are under threat. This is the second-largest fire in California’s history after the August Complex Fire 2020 when a series of lightning strikes caused a fire in multiple counties and burned more than 1 million acres. The US deployed 6000 personnel to fight the fire who expected it to be contained by September 30.
Other fires that are simultaneously burning across the US states include McFarland fire, Monument Fire, Haypress Fire, Antelope Fire, Alaska Fire, The Sylvian Fire (Colorado), and Woods Creek Fire. In Canada, Ontario currently has 43 active wildfires and British Columbia 248. Thousands of people are being evacuated upon notice from authorities.
Texas Winter Storm
More than 4.5 million consumers went out of power in February 2021 while temperatures dropped below -13 degrees Celsius in Texas. Residents who were not used to extremely cold conditions froze to death. The state reported around 151 deaths but independent research revealed alarming results. Analysts recorded more than 700 deaths during the week of mass power failure. Hypothermia was the cause of most deaths but wreckages, faulty medical equipment, fire, and carbon monoxide poising also killed people. Survivors either left Texas or desperately tried to protect themselves from hypothermia by using gas stoves as a source of heat.
The state was clearly not prepared for extreme cold due to its problematic grid. The energy infrastructure powered by natural gas, coal, and nuclear was easily overwhelmed by the cold temperature. State agencies and lawmakers blamed and grilled each other instead of acknowledging their own lack of climate action. Reportedly there were several warnings from weather experts but Texas continued to prioritize the free-market economy. As a result, it suffered up to 130 billion USD of loss.
In Texas, the temperature regularly soars above 32 degrees Celsius was fine for the energy system to protect against. However, it was not optimized well for the freezing temperatures. Texas had faced a similar energy crisis in 2011 after an arctic blast brought the temperature as low as -17 degrees Celsius.
Investigations revealed that Texas energy managers needed to upgrade, winterize, and insulate the power grid. However, most systems remained faulty and vulnerable to climate change events. The cold weather started to freeze the equipment at facilities along with solar panels and wind turbines. Everything that required electricity lost power including an anti-freeze injection system and pumps, causing a shutdown in other power plants as well. As the Texans turned up the heat usage, the energy system completely malfunctioned sending Texas into dark ages.
Canada Under Heat Dome
Deadly heatwave hit the US and Canada in July 2021 forcing people to take extreme measures. According to reports, the atmosphere started to trap hot ocean air like a dome and prevented other weather systems from fixing it. As the heat increased, the water got warmer and the steam could not escape. The US-based National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) stated that when a high-pressure atmosphere was combined with weather patterns, it created a heat dome. It stayed for 5 days in western Canada and north-western America where it pushed the temperatures to 49.6 degrees Celsius along the coast, breaking all-time records.
Heatwaves have been occurring regularly on Earth but man-made global warming has increased its duration and frequency. Scientists said that if there was no global warming then the impact of these climate change events would be 5 times lower. Anyhow, they have become 50% stronger and started to affect 25% more land in the Northern Hemisphere. Reportedly, the intense heat has killed up to 500 people in British Columbia and also contributed to the wildfires currently burning there.
The most devasting impact fell upon the sea life with more than 1 billion marine animals killed and washed ashore. The media released visceral scenes from the beach where the scorching heat and hot water literally cooked the mussels. There was no space to walk without stepping on a dead mussel, clam, or sea star. Mussels are hard shellfishes that can survive the temperature up to 30 degrees Celsius but anything above that kills them. Shellfish is important to filter the sea and its mass killing can largely damage water quality for some time. Mussels can regenerate in a couple of years but some starfishes and clams reproduce slowly so their recovery might take longer. There were reports of other dead animals including oysters, sea anemones, and rockfish while many deaths still remained unknown.
Experts warned that such heatwaves were going to become a norm in the British Columbia province. Many species will not be able to survive through climate change as it is impossible to predict how ecosystems will act in the coming years. The IPCC report on climate change has explained the issue in detail and suggested human leaders correct their ways.
Record-breaking rainfall on 20th July flooded the roads, overpowered flood defenses, swamped street-side shops, washed away cars, and filled up subway stations. According to reports about 625,000 acres of crops were destroyed, 1.5 million people evacuated, and more than 300 died while 50 still remained missing. Most of these deaths were reported from Zhengzhou city which saw a year’s worth of rain in just 3 days. Reports of children trapped inside schools and people stranded in their workplaces were shocking. This city is known for its formidable defenses against heavy rains and floods but the recent climate change events tell a different story.
Reportedly, the city has spent over 80 million USD on urban planning since 2016 in efforts to create a “sponge city”. President Xi Jinping promoted this concept as a way to absorb and mitigate floodwater. However, the cloudburst easily overwhelmed the drains and other flood defense systems. The estimated loss was 14 billion USD after which the Chinese government arranged an investigation team and ordered it to hold anyone accountable for abandoning their duties.
On 28th and 29th August, more torrential rains hit China causing floods and landslides in Shaanxi province. 23,000 people were evacuated in fear of another deadly flood. In Chongqing municipality, the water levels reportedly rose at the speed of 12 to 15 inches per hour, flooding the provincial highway. The Ren River also reportedly saw its highest flow in 2 decades. In recent years, Asian countries have also been witnessing the worst disasters ever. In 2018, a massive flood in Kerala, India caused 3 billion USD in damages, displaced 800,000 people, and killed around 370.
These climate change events are not only limited to the regions where they caused the most damage. These are an alarm for the entire mankind to rethink and rebuild what it has been missing or avoiding while pushing industrialization.