You Want Proof? I’ll Give you Proof!

The greatest invalidator of the true severity of climate change is distance—the further the disaster, the less urgent the problem. When the negative impacts of climate change affect those in low-income countries hundreds of miles away or when we read articles online about overarching figures and statistical predictions, it is difficult to draw the trajectory between us and them. The oversaturated reporting of facts and figures in the news can alienate the reader from the tangible proof of climate change in heavily affected areas. Natural disasters caused by climate change have been aggravating “existing factors like poverty, conflict, and political instability” and causing high rates of displacement.ᶦ In the first half of 2020 alone, the Internal Displacement Monitor Center recorded 9.8 million displacements caused by natural disasters and predicted more than 1 billion displacements by 2050 due to climate.ᶦᶦ Although, as previously stated, these figures do not do the tragedies they numerate justice.

To gather tangible proof of climate change’s negative effects, one would not need to look very far into the past. The following are five examples of the damage climate change has been wreaking merely over the course of the global lockdown.


1. Fire and Water in Australia

Source: The Conversation


All eyes were on Australia during Bushfire season, which came to be known as the ‘Black Summer’, following raging fires from September 2019 into the summer of 2020. The fires were estimated to have burnt “an approximate area of 18.6 million hectares” and affected billions of land animals, leading some already endangered species towards extinction.ᶦᶦᶦ Barely a year later in May 2021, unprecedented flooding led to thousands being evacuated from New South Wales, Australia with “some 10 million…under an extreme weather warning”.ᶦᵛ The back-to-back disasters were explained by Climate Council spokesperson Will Steffen as “driven by the burning of coal, oil, and gas”, which could go on to exacerbate the “effects of heatwaves, cyclones, fires and other extreme weather events”.ᵛ


2. Snowpocalypse in Texas

Source: New York Times


In February 2021, the normally sunny state of Texas encountered ice storms and blizzard conditions which were estimated to be some of its coolest temperatures in decades, with some areas going as low as -18ºC. Unlike colder areas, “homes in Texas are not normally insulated for cold weather”, which means the unequipped state quickly succumbed to frozen pipes bursting, wide-ranging power outages, and heat systems failing.ᵛᶦ The high demand for electricity led to imposed blackouts in “in some areas to conserve power for hospitals, police and fire stations”, leaving 4.3 million without electricity and vulnerable to the cold.ᵛᶦᶦ Unsurprisingly, the prolonged freeze is directly linked to the quickened warming of the Arctic, which can exacerbate extreme weather events and cause unlikely climactic changes.


3. Himalayan Landslide

Source: Al Jazeera News


The devastating flash flood in Uttarakhand during February 2021 was caused by a glacier detaching and sending a “rush of water, rocks, and silt” into the Nanda Devi National Park area, killing more than 70 people and wiping out bridges and houses along the Alaknanda River.ᵛᶦᶦᶦ The result of the landslide was the “flooding of the Chamoli district”.ᶦˣ Scientists have linked the disaster to the “rapid freezing and thawing of ice causing glacier fractures” which threaten to affect other Himalayan regions with rockslides and flooding if not stabilized.ˣ


4. Irreparable Damage to California Wildlife

Source: News18.com


In 2020’s wildfire season, a record amount of 9,639 fires raged through California, USA.ˣᶦ By the end of 2020, 4,397,809 acres of land had reportedly been burned down, making up approximately 4% of California’s forests.ˣᶦᶦ Recontextualized, if the Californian wildfires consume 4% of the forested area yearly, this gives them 25 years before there’s nothing left. Climate scientists attribute “more than half of the acres burned each year in the western United States” to climate change—more specifically, greenhouse gas emissions.ˣᶦᶦᶦ Scientists go on to say that if emissions are not dramatically reduced, “forests in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington” could lose more than 78% of their land to wildfires by 2050.ˣᶦᵛ


5. Cyclones in India

Source: News18.com


Cyclone Amphan left the eastern coast states of West Bengal, Odisha, and Bangladesh in tatters, destroying houses and obliterating wildlife as it rampaged through its landfall. Due to urban developments, the destruction of mangroves, and a “rapidly warming Indian Ocean”, there has been a rise in the frequency and severity of cyclones on the eastern and western coasts of India.ˣᵛ Climate scientists predict that these occurrences are only due to increase without substantial intervention.


In consolidating these five examples, it can be surely noted that natural disasters are indeed increasing in intensity, complexity and frequency, as they are now “occurring three times more often than 50 years ago”.ˣᵛᶦ It is crucial that these events do not get dismissed as one-off disasters or disasters too isolated to be within our sphere of influence. Doing nothing solves nothing, where disaster is concerned.

ᶦ Kanupriya Kapoor, ‘More than 10 million people displaced by climate disasters in six months, report finds’, The Independent (London, 17 March 2021) <https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/homeless-displaced-floods-droughts-environment-b1818345.html> accessed 3 May 2021.

ᶦᶦ ibid

ᶦᶦᶦ ‘In Photos: How Climate Change Caused Some of the Biggest Natural Disasters in Recent Times’ News18 Media (London, 23 February 23 2021) <https://www.news18.com/photogallery/buzz/in-photos-how-climate-change-caused-some-of-the-biggest-natural-disasters-in-recent-times-3465896-4.html> accessed 3 May 2021.

ᶦᵛ Rosie Frost, ‘Flooding in Australia triggers fresh concerns about the impacts of climate change’, EuroNews.Green (Lyon, 22 March 2021) <https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/03/22/flooding-in-australia-triggers-fresh-concerns-about-the-impacts-of-climate-change> accessed 3 May 2021.

ᵛ ibid

ᵛᶦ ‘Texas weather: Deadly winter storm sweeps Texas and US southern states’, BBC News (London, 17 February 2021) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-56076686> accessed 3 May 2021.

ᵛᶦᶦ ibid

ᵛᶦᶦᶦ Mudassir Kuloo, ‘Deadly Flash Floods on the Rise in the Himalayas’, Earth Island Journal (Berkeley, 17 May 2021) < https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/deadly-flash-floods-on-the-rise-in-the-himalayas/> accessed 5 June 2021.

ᶦˣ ‘In Photos: How Climate Change Caused Some of the Biggest Natural Disasters in Recent Times’ News18 Media (London, 23 February 23 2021) <https://www.news18.com/photogallery/buzz/in-photos-how-climate-change-caused-some-of-the-biggest-natural-disasters-in-recent-times-3465896-4.html> accessed 3 May 2021.

ˣ ibid

ˣᶦ ibid

ˣᶦᶦ ibid

ˣᶦᶦᶦ Rebecca Miller, Katharine Mach, and Chris Field, ‘Climate Change Is Central to California’s Wildfires’, Scientific American (New York, 29 October 2020) < https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-is-central-to-californias-wildfires/> accessed 6 June 2021.

ˣᶦᵛ ibid

ˣᵛ ‘In Photos: How Climate Change Caused Some of the Biggest Natural Disasters in Recent Times’ News18 Media (London, 23 February 23 2021) <https://www.news18.com/photogallery/buzz/in-photos-how-climate-change-caused-some-of-the-biggest-natural-disasters-in-recent-times-3465896-4.html> accessed 3 May 2021.

ˣᵛᶦ Newsroom, ‘Natural disasters occurring three times more often than 50 years ago’, Modern Diplomacy (22 March 2021) < https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/03/22/natural-disasters-occurring-three-times-more-often-than-50-years-ago/> accessed 5 May 2021.


Photos


Figure 1

Ross Bradstock and others, ‘A staggering 1.8 million hectares burned in ‘high severity’ fires during Australia’s Black Summer’ The Conversation (Melbourne, 28 March 2021) < https://theconversation.com/a-staggering-1-8-million-hectares-burned-in-high-severity-fires-during-australias-black-summer-157883> accessed 7 June 2021.


Figure 2

Tamir Kalifa ‘Burst Pipes and Power Outages in Battered Texas’ NY Times (New York, 21 February 2021) < https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/02/17/us/winter-storm-weather-live> accessed 7 June 2021.


Figure 3

Prakash Kashwan and Neelima Vallangi, ‘Hydropower projects are wreaking havoc in the Himalayas’ AlJazeera (Doha, 19 March 2021) < https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/3/19/hydropower-projects-are-wrecking-havoc-in-the-himalayas> 7 June 2021.


Figure 4

‘In Photos: How Climate Change Caused Some of the Biggest Natural Disasters in Recent Times’ News18 Media (London, 23 February 23 2021) <https://www.news18.com/photogallery/buzz/in-photos-how-climate-change-caused-some-of-the-biggest-natural-disasters-in-recent-times-3465896-4.html> accessed 3 May 2021.


Figure 5

‘In Photos: How Climate Change Caused Some of the Biggest Natural Disasters in Recent Times’ News18 Media (London, 23 February 23 2021) <https://www.news18.com/photogallery/buzz/in-photos-how-climate-change-caused-some-of-the-biggest-natural-disasters-in-recent-times-3465896-4.html> accessed 3 May 2021.


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