Extreme weather conditions are an immediate reality across all continents and are no longer a threat in the distant future. It has been a dangerous summer of natural disasters and the 21st century has already been facing extreme conditions regularly that have been created or aggravated by global warming. But this summer has seen a deluge of extreme weather conditions as the direct effect of climate changes is definitely upon us.
No part of the planet has been immune to its effects. The record-shattering high temperatures burning across more than a dozen western US states, the heat dome in western Canada in June, the floods in Germany and China, and the Madagascar famine are all part of climate change that can be attributed majorly to weather change.
Climate change has so far been linked with remote places on the planet; the melting polar ice caps, the droughts of Africa, and the receding glacier in the Himalayas. But it has come dangerously close this year and hit the developed nations directly.
The latest instance of extreme weather has been the wildfires in 13 states in the western US, and the devastating floods in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, with more than 100 people confirmed dead and another 1,000 unaccounted for.
Global Warming Directly Linked To Extreme Weather
The sudden acceleration in extreme weather patterns around the world has turned the spotlight on global warming. While experts have concurred that climate change can never be the sole cause of any weather events, they can contribute significantly to it. Many factors influence and contribute to an extreme event.
But global warming has been contributing more significantly to the volatility in weather conditions around the world. Many more such weather conditions are feared soon.
Extreme conditions are a result of natural weather variability and climate changes coming together and are influenced by other geographical factors.
The past month has been especially harrowing. While the German floods, the worst in 6 decades, have swallowed villages and towns, in Canada, Lytton, a town known more for its pleasant weather, was burned completely after enduring record high temperatures for days.
And in a dozen states in the western US, prolonged drought and heatwaves have been followed by one of the biggest ever wildfires in the country’s history. More than 80 wildfires have destroyed over a million acres (around 4,000 sq. kilometers).
Environmental scientists have been warning for years that global warnings would cause incremental changes in weather conditions, with changes in both its intensity and frequency. But the actual conditions on the ground have beaten even the worst-case scenarios.
While scientists have been warning of global change and the consequent extreme weather conditions for around 50 years, they haven’t been successful in predicting the intensity of the impact.
Michael E. Mann of Penn State University said that existing climate change models have their limitations. The director at the Earth System Science Center further said that many vital factors have not been included in the existing climate change models including the heat dome that covered Canada and the western US. It has caused an unprecedented spike in temperatures that led to hundreds of deaths across the two countries.
Mann said that only the extreme weather conditions are concentrating solely on major weather conditions. The everyday changes are being left out of the calculations. The weather conditions caused by climate change are right upon us. Only more powerful climate models can predict events like the ongoing wildfires in North America and the flooding in Germany and its neighboring countries.
Tim Palmer of Oxford University and other leading scientists have said that only a computer that can process enormous amounts of data can predict climate change. The computer has to be developed on the lines of the CERN and would need the cooperation of multiple countries to be successful.
Such a computer can look decades into the future even at a micro level, for instance, a city, to predict extreme weather. Current climate models do not possess that level of sophistication, and it is important that we reach there, said Palmer.
While we spend trillions trying to adapt to changing climatic conditions, we are not sure what exactly we are in for, be it droughts, floods, rising sea levels, or storms.
Extreme Weather Conditions Were Not Unexpected
Even existing climate change models have been pointing towards the extreme weather conditions that have hit all the continents in recent years. But extremely powerful systems are needed to make more accurate and detailed predictions into the future.
Multiple variable conditions have to be taken into account to make sense of the wildfires in North America and the floods in Germany.
World leaders were seized of the urgency to speed up the process. Both the US has stressed the need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The EU has plans in place to place climate issues at the forefront of every economic and development initiative.
But extreme weather conditions will remain a reality if global temperatures are not contained to within 1.5C. Only then can we hope to contain the regular occurrence of catastrophic events. But governments continue to approve measures that work against their commitments including approving fresh fossil fuel and mining projects.
Perhaps it is for the better that people get a feel of what it feels like to be in the frontline of climate change. It is a closing circle that is engulfing the whole world and unless immediate actions are taken, maybe we will have to accept this as the new normal.
World leaders need to realize that climate change stands as the greatest threat to our very existence. And no country is rich enough to stop it at their borders or buy their way out of its devastating effects. Neither is any country secluded enough to shy away from their commitment to shoulder their responsibility in bringing about sustainable development.
As Barack Obama so succinctly put it, “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change, and the last generation who can do something about it.”