Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Climate Emergency


Northern and western Europe experienced prolonged and intense heatwaves over the year. Much of the continent endured drought, and summer wildfire emissions were at their highest for 15 years.

Twelve European countries broke monthly temperature records in 2022 as the continent recorded its hottest ever summer, new analysis shows. In each case, the anomalies were more than 1.9C above the average temperature recorded between 1991 and 2020 for at least one month.

In Austria, the average across October 2022 was 3.3C warmer than the average October temperature recorded between 1991 and 2020. France and Slovenia also recorded temperature anomalies of 3C or more that month. Croatia and Greece both experienced 3C in December. Italy was warmer than average for all but two months of the year. It recorded its highest ever monthly temperature anomaly for three different months, in May, October and December. Spain and Portugal broke records for monthly anomalies on three different occasions.

Globally, 2022 was the fifth warmest year on record, with the last eight years collectively being the eight warmest on record, according to Copernicus. The average global temperature in 2022 was 1.2C higher than the average across the reference period 1850-1900.

In response to the findings, Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at the University of Reading, said: “We are beginning to see increasing droughts, heatwaves and floods affecting large regions of the world that are not used to them. The rate of change means we need to adapt our way of life quicker than we ever have before.”

Meanwhile, the USA endured a particularly painful year as communities wrestled with the growing impacts of the climate crisis, with 18 major disasters wreaking havoc across the country as planet-heating emissions continued to climb. A total of 474 people died last year from these major calamities, the annual report found.

Storms, floods, wildfires and droughts caused a total of $165bn in damages in the US last year, $10bn more than the 2021 total and the third most costly year since records of major losses began in 1980. 

Since 2016, there have been 122 separate billion-dollar weather and climate events that have, in total, killed more than 5,000 people and caused more than $1tn in damages.

Adam Smith, an applied climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), explained, “We are seeing several trends of climate-enhanced disasters,” said Smith, noting that the US is seeing longer, more intense wildfire seasons, severe rainfall events and the sort of huge, category four and five hurricanes in the past few years that Noaa has not documented before in its historical record, which stretches back to 1851. Smith added, “It does not seem likely that these trends will reverse. Perhaps we need to be more prepared for a future that has rapidly become our present.”

In the meantime, experts have said, as increasingly extreme weather is a mounting danger to refugees and migrants, already vulnerable displaced people, and is potentially pushing more people to flee their homes. However, little work has been done on addressing the plight of migrants afflicted by climate breakdown, or on the risk that more extremes of weather will push more people into moving

David Miliband, the chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said: “We have done a really bad job of working together on this. That’s especially damaging given that these migrants and displaced people are the most vulnerable people, in conflict-driven parts of the world. These people have done the least to contribute to the climate crisis, but are among the most severely impacted... “Climate change has a direct and indirect effect on migration, and forced migration. It generally leads to internal displacement, to migration flows within countries.”

Miliband warned that poor countries needed more funds to protect themselves from the effects of extreme weather, to help prevent people being forced to fleeOn current forecasts, more than 200 million people are likely to be displaced around the world by 2030, by a variety of factors including the climate crisis. Most of them are likely to stay within their country borders, but the impact will be vast.

Andrew Harper, the special adviser on climate action at the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees, said, “Climate change has turbocharged extreme weather events. And those extreme weather events are in turn displacing people.”

Twelve European countries broke temperature records in 2022 | Extreme weather | The Guardian

Extreme weather left 474 people dead and cost $165bn in the US last year | Climate crisis | The Guardian

Governments urged to confront effects of climate crisis on migrants | Climate crisis | The Guardian

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