by Tristan Tremschnig
In the last week, the world has experienced a series of calamitous weather events. News headlines have painted a grim picture: flooding, drought, landslides and record ice melt in the arctic. These events stretch to every corner of the globe, but their effects are all too heavily felt by the poorest people in the world.
While it is true that it is difficult to attribute any single weather event to climate change, it is agreed that climate change is likely to bring more extreme weather events with it. Indeed, many of these recent events are consistent with what can be expected as global temperatures continue to rise. In very broad terms, this is because climate change is putting more energy (heat) into the world’s weather systems. It is probable that this will cause dry areas to get drier and wet areas to get wetter.
We need to ask ourselves: is this the world we want?
- Arctic: June 18 – Satellite images of the Arctic have shown the extent of floating ice that melts and refreezes was 824,000 square kilometres less than the same period in 2007 – the year of record low extent since records started in 1979. This follows last year’s second greatest sea ice melt on record.
- Uganda: June 25 – A landslide devastated two villages, killing about 30 people and leaving more than 100 missing. A local official said it rained heavily in the area for two days and that the landslides in the area may be more severe than the ones that occurred there in 2010.
- North and South Korea: 26 June – The most severe drought since record keeping began 105 years ago is gripping the Korean Peninsula. According to reports, 80% of South Korea is experiencing severe drought, with Seoul experiencing only seven percent of the rainfall it experienced during the same period last year.
- Bangladesh: June 28 – The death toll from floods and landslides have been climbing. Unusually heavy monsoon rains have disrupted road, rail and air links, local officials said.
- Nigeria: June 28 – Heavy rains and flooding have affected residents in the capital, Lagos. In some areas properties were swept away and major roads were blocked.
- United Kingdom: June 28 – Torrential rain has caused flash floods in parts of the UK, while Northern England, the Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland were hit by storms that brought lightning, giant hailstones, squalls and tornadoes. At the same time, southern parts of Britain experienced dry weather and temperatures of up to 28C.
- USA: June 28 – A wildfire has forced the evacuation of 35,000 people from Colorado’s second-largest city. One person has been killed and 346 homes incinerated, making it the most destructive blaze in the state’s history. Waldo Canyon was the site of one of over 40 large, uncontained wildfires being fought across the United States, the bulk of them in ten western states: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and even Hawaii.
- India: June 29 – 900,000 people have been displaced and 27 people have died due to floods in the north-eastern state of Assam. Torrential rain has hit the region, inundating 21 of the 27 districts in the state, as the seasonal monsoon rolls across the subcontinent.
- USA: 30 June – The Washington D.C region, Maryland, and Northern Virginia were lashed by a sudden and violent storm that killed at least 13 people. Even the Washington Post writes (June 30, 2012): “As the intensity of the heat wave, without reservation, was a key factor in the destructiveness of this “derecho” event - it raises the question about the possible role of manmade climate warming (from elevated greenhouse concentrations).”
- Costa Rica: 30 June – New research suggests that climate change could impede leatherback turtle population’s ability to recover, according to a study in the journal Nature Climate Change by a research team from Drexel University, Princeton University, other institutions and US government agencies. The report indicates that the eastern Pacific population of leatherback turtles will decline by 75 percent by the year 2100. Turtle eggs and hatchlings in nests buried at hotter, drier beaches are the main reason for this decline. Dr. James Spotila, the Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel told the Science Daily: “In 1990, there were 1,500 turtles nesting on the Playa Grande beach. Now, there are 30 to 40 nesting females per season.”
- USA: June 29 – Stifling heat and dry conditions are persisting across the centre the Midwest. The drought conditions are hitting at the worst possible time for young corn and soybean plants already suffering from a lack of rain, according to agricultural meteorologists.