‘No one is safe’: Extreme weather batters the wealthy world

Some EuropeThe wealthiest nations are in turmoil this weekend as rivers rampage their banks in Germany and Belgium, engulfing towns, crashing cars parked against trees and leaving Europeans in awe of the extent of the devastation.

Just a few days ago in the Northwest United States, an area known for its cool, foggy weather, hundreds of people died from the heat. In Canada, wildfires burned down a village on the map. Moscow is reeling with record temperatures. And this weekend, the northern Rocky Mountains are bracing for another heatwave as wildfires spread across 12 states in the western United States.

The Bad weather Disasters across Europe and North America have led to two essential facts of science and history: The whole world is not prepared to slow down. climate change don’t live with it either. The events of the week have now devastated some of the world’s wealthiest countries, whose affluence has been made possible by more than a century of burning coal, oil and gas – greenhouse gas pumping operations. into the atmosphere that is warming the world.

“I say this as a German: The idea that you can die,” said Friederike Otto, a physicist at Oxford University who studies the link between extreme weather and climate change. because the weather is completely unfamiliar. “Not even realizing that adaptation is what we have to do right now. We have to save people’s lives.”

The flood in Europe have killed at least 165 people, most of them in Germany, Europe’s most powerful economy. Across Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, hundreds of people have been reported missing, suggesting the death toll could rise. Questions are now being raised about whether authorities have adequately warned the public about the risks.

The bigger question is whether the growing disasters in the developed world have an impact on what the most influential countries and companies in the world will do to reduce their own planet-warming emissions. or not. They come months before the United Nations-led climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, an effective way to calculate whether the world’s nations can agree on ways to curb emissions enough to avert the worst effects of climate change.

The disasters caused by global warming have left a long trail of death and loss across most of the developing world, wiping out crops in Bangladesh, flattening villages in Honduras and threatening existence of small island states. Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines during climate preparedness talks in 2013, prompting representatives of developing countries to apply for funding to cope with the losses and damages they faced over time. caused by climate disasters for which they are not responsible. That has been denied by wealthier nations, including the United States and Europe.

“Extreme weather events in developing countries often cause death and great destruction – but this is seen as our responsibility, not our responsibility,” said Ulka Kelkar, climate director for India. must be something worse because of the more than one hundred years of greenhouse gases developed by industrialized countries.” Office of the World Resources Institute. These growing disasters are now hitting richer nations, she said, showing that developing nations are seeking the world’s help to combat climate change “not at all.” scream”.

Indeed, even as the 2015 Paris Agreement was negotiated, with the goal of averting the worst effects of climate change, global emissions have not stopped rising. China is the largest emitter in the world today. Emissions are declining in both the United States and Europe, but not at the rate needed to limit the rise in global temperatures.

A reminder of shared costs comes from Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, an island nation at risk of rising seas.

“While not all are equally affected, this tragic event is a reminder that, in a climate emergency, no one is safe, even if they live on an island nation. as small as mine or a developed Western European country,” Nasheed said in a statement on behalf of a group of countries calling themselves the Climate Vulnerability Forum.

The intensity of these disasters is just as remarkable as their timing, preceded by global negotiations in Glasgow to try to strike a deal on climate change. The world has a poor record of cooperation so far, and this month new diplomatic tensions emerge.

Of the major economies, the European Commission last week introduced the most ambitious map of change. It proposes legislation to ban the sale of gas-powered cars and engines by 2035, requiring most industries to pay for the emissions they generate and, most significantly, imposing tariffs on imported goods. from countries with less stringent climate policies.

But those proposals are expected to face stiff opposition from within Europe and from other countries whose businesses could be threatened by the proposed carbon border tax, potentially making complicating the prospect of global cooperation in Glasgow.

The events of this summer come after decades of forgotten science. Climate models have warned of the devastating effects of rising temperatures. A comprehensive scientific review in 2018 warned that failing to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the start of the industrial age could lead to catastrophic results. from flooding in coastal cities to crop failure in various parts of the world.

The report provided world leaders with a realistic, albeit narrow, path out of the chaos. It requires the entire world to halve its emissions by 2030. Since then, however, global emissions have continued to rise, to the point that the average global temperature has increased by more than 1 degree Celsius (about 2 degrees). F) since 1880, shrinking to keep the rise below the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.

As average temperatures have increased, it has increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in general. In recent years, scientific advances have pinpointed the extent to which climate change causes specific events.

For example, Otto and an international team of researchers concluded that an unusual heat wave in the northwestern United States in late June would almost certainly not have occurred without global warming.

And while extensive scientific analysis is needed to link climate change to last week’s devastating floods in Europe, a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture and has caused heavy rainfall. than in many storms around the world. There is little doubt that extreme weather events will continue to become more frequent and intense as a result of global warming. An article published Friday forecast a significant increase in slow-moving but intense rainstorms across Europe by the end of the century due to climate change.

“We have to adapt to the change we have introduced into the system and also avoid further change by reducing our emissions,” said Richard Betts, a climate scientist at the Met Office in the UK. us, by reducing our influence on the climate,” said Richard Betts, a climate scientist at the Met Office in the UK. and a professor at the University of Exeter.

That message has clearly failed to permeate policymakers and perhaps the general public, especially in the developed world, which has maintained a sense of invulnerability.

The result is a lack of preparation, even in countries with the resources. In the United States, floods have killed more than 1,000 people since 2010, according to federal figures. In the Southwest, heat-related deaths have spiked in recent years.

According to Jean Slick, head of the emergency and disaster management program at Royal Roads University in British Columbia, sometimes it’s because governments are trying to respond to disasters they’ve never experienced before. , like the heat wave in Western Canada last month. “You might have a plan, but you don’t know it’s going to work,” says Slick.

Other times, it’s because there’s no political incentive to spend money on adaptation.

“By the time they build new flood infrastructure in their communities, they will likely be out of office,” said Samantha Montano, a professor of emergency management at the Massachusetts Maritime Institute. . “But they will have to justify the millions and billions of dollars being spent.”



TaraSubramaniam is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. TaraSubramaniam joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: tarasubramaniam@interreviewed.com.

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