The disastrous effects of climate change are starting to be felt across the world – and these Earth-shaking blows are already hitting us far more frequently than previously predicted.
The United Nation’s body for Disaster Risk Reduction has recently warned that climate change-related disasters could be occurring as often as every week, The Guardian reports. Not only does this underline the need for urgent action against greenhouse gas emissions, but it also highlights the need for better infrastructure to help people endure the ensuing damage, especially in developing countries, which are most vulnerable to these changes.
“This is not about the future, this is about today,” Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, told The Guardian.
“We talk about a climate emergency and a climate crisis, but if we cannot confront this [issue of adapting] we will not survive,” she added. “We need to look at the risks of not investing in resilience.”
The effect of climate change is much more complex than hotter summers and milder winters. While global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, global warming is just one aspect of climate change.
Rising global temperatures can intensify extreme weather events and have a profound effect on the long-term weather patterns of the planet. Warmer temperatures mean more and more water vapor, which fuels storms, can evaporate into the atmosphere. On top of that, more heat in the atmosphere and warmer ocean surface temperatures can increase wind speeds in tropical storms. There is also strong evidence to suggest increased temperatures cause the movement of tropical storms to slow down, allowing them more time to dump heavy rainfall once they've moved inland.
This is exactly what we saw earlier this year with Cyclone Idai, one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, which devasted large parts of Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. The storm is estimated to have killed at least 600 people, caused 400,000 displacements, and destroyed 90 percent of Beira, Mozambique’s second-largest port city.
According to the UN, we are also experiencing more frequent lower-impact disasters. These events are causing damage and death, but they often receive very little international attention. They can include instances such as increased damage from floods and more intense heatwaves.
As one high profile example, France and other parts of Europe saw a record-shattering heatwave a couple of weeks ago with temperatures hitting 45.9°C (114.6°F) in the town of Gallargues-le-Montueux in southern France. An analysis found that climate change made these scorching temperatures at least five times more likely than they would have been in a world without global warming.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also recently released their State of the Global Climate report, which warned that the effects of climate change have certainly arrived – and the worst is yet to come.