Extreme weather events: While climate change fails to garner the kind of attention that other ongoing events in the world do, it is now not a matter of if but a matter of when that humankind will lose control of the matter. Parts of the world are experiencing unprecedented heat beating all-time highs in at least a half-dozen countries this summer. The phenomenon is not particular to one region and has been hitting all continents, from Europe to Asia to Australia, during the past week. Japan, Italy, Norway, Iran and Finland are a few of the latest nations to beat heat records in an extraordinary month.
What’s alarming? None of these events have been typical for June or July. India had no respite either and touched record highs this summer. In fact, certain parts of the country didn’t enter the spring season at all this year.
Extreme weather events across the globe
Climate change has not merely affected European countries but has now reached a dramatic degree on the continent, depending on the location. This has translated into biodiversity loss, forest fires, decreased food yields, greater temperatures to the collapse of alpine glaciers in the Italian Alps.
But that is not surprising considering the European Union is the world’s third biggest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the US in 2015, according to the World Resources Institute.
Recently, there was a fatal glacial avalanche in Italy. On July 3, a heat wave triggered the sudden detachment of a massive chunk of the Marmolada glacier in the Italian Alps.
The western Europe also received intense heat waves this June. Meteorologists then said that the unusually early heat wave is a sign of what’s to come as global warming continues. The then European temperatures were something akin to what the region experiences in July or August. In some parts of Spain and France, temperatures were more than 10 degrees higher than is typical of June. Areas across western and southern Europe have been rationing water amid the sweltering heat, with a very dry spring putting immense stress on water systems.
In the kangaroo country, a major flooding led to 50,000 Sydney residents being forced to evacuate. Some locations saw up to 31.5 inches of rain during the 1st weekend of the month, with 8 inches in 24 hours in parts of Sydney, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
In the last 24 hours, extreme lightning sparked more Alaska wildfires in an already historic season. Nearly 17,500 lightning strikes were detected across the state from July 2 to 4, the highest ever total recorded in a 48-hour period since such monitoring began there in 2013. These lightning strikes led to wildfires and the season is already on a track to be one of the Alaska’ worst. Alaska has been unusually warm and dry in recent months. The heat wave in Alaska is also affecting northwestern Canada, helping to jump-start the wildfire season there too.
The eastern regions of the country are experiencing the worst drought spell in four decades. The last four rainy seasons have been majorly deficit and the upcoming one in October-December is forecast to follow suit, making it an exceptional situation.
Africa is disproportionately vulnerable to climate change concerns as it is on the receiving end of the crimes done by others. The climate indicators in Africa are characterised by continued warming temperatures, accelerating sea-level rise, extreme weather and climate events, such as floods, landslides and droughts, and associated devastating impacts.
By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat.
Right from March which is not as hot as the following months, India started to experience heat waves which were especially painful for those living in the north and western India. From March to April alone, four heat waves hit the country giving 26 days of scorching temperatures. And it was not just the heat. Regions in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan reportedly ran out of water making life a living hell for the residents. The maximum temperature in March this year touched 122 year high.
Till April end, there were no pre-monsoon rains and India was unusually dry. The amount of rainfall in March was 70.7% lower than normal. Pre-monsoon rain is caused by western disturbances i.e. storms originating in the Mediterranean region which remained weak this year. During months of scorching temperatures, India and its neighbour Pakistan saw the mercury scrape past 50 degree celsius in some places.
The severe heat also led to an increase in demand for electricity which led to shortages. Higher temperatures also mean an adverse impact on harvests especially when inflation pressure continues to bite. Food shortage is a big matter of concern for a country which already houses a significant number of malnourished children in the world.
Why is extreme weather change a huge matter of concern?
All of the above point to a planet that is scorching owing to human activity. For Indians, almost every climate change report indicates that the country will bear the brunt of this global warming in the form of increasing heat waves. The number of extremely hot days each year has been rising with each decade; jumping from 413 in 1981-90 to 575 in 2001-10 and 600 in 2011-20.
The future looks just as dismal and all apocalyptic movies (think 2012) can actually stop being fiction if absolutely nothing is done to curb carbon emissions. At the current rate, average temperatures are expected to increase by 2.7 degree celsius in the next 50 years and hit 4.4 degree celsius by the end of this century. That translates to the warmest day and coldest night by 2100 will be 4.7 degree celsius and 5.5 degree celsius warmer, respectively.
What are governments doing to prevent extreme weather?
The most significant agreement taken by governments of the world to curb climate change is known as The Paris Climate Accords. It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change which was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
At the 26th Conference of Parties (COP) UN climate conference in Glasgow, many countries pledged net zero emissions and India also that the country will strive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. Via this, the governments aim to maintain a proper balance between the quantity of greenhouse gases released and removed from the atmosphere. To be more specific, if a country emits a certain amount of carbon each year, it must compensate by absorbing carbon through forest absorption or carbon capturing. This is expected to reduce green house gases.