Unprecedented baking temperature coupled with devastating floods across several continents of the globe have put the weather watchers in a high state of alert and caution. Action Aid International has pressed the alarm button and called for urgent action by rich nations.
By Prasanta Paul
There is no denying nor can there be any hiding. Of what? Unprecedented heating of the atmosphere globally has been supercharging the ozone layer at a frightening speed.
Blame it on the impact of global warming which is tantalisingly visible across the Indian sub-continent and beyond. A lot of noise is being made for the past two decades about global warming.
What has happened suddenly that we need to sit up and watch with concern?
Europe has been in the grip of its worst drought in at least 500 years, with two-thirds of the continent in a state of alert or warning, reducing inland shipping, electricity production and the yields of a large number of crops.
Blistering Heat Wave & Drought
In some countries other than Europe, a blistering heat wave that swept across last month and early this month triggering wildfires and drought, has been followed by an unprecedented cloudburst and massive flash flood; all this has taken a terrible toll, India’s Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh being no exception.
In some other parts including neighbouring Pakistan and China, a deadly heat wave followed by devastating floods have wreaked havoc, taking the current climate crisis to a new level.
China is not the only country experiencing extreme weather. Firefighters in a wide swathe of Europe including Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Morocco are battling forest fires raging across tens of thousands of hectares as the late August heat wave has caused hundreds of deaths across southwestern Europe.
The second heat wave of the summer spanning from late August to early September– with temperatures hitting 47C (116F) in Portugal and 45C in Spain – has triggered wildfires that have forced the evacuation of thousands of people.
In the UK, the first ever red warning for exceptional heat came into force, with temperatures climbing up to 41C (105.8F), breaking the country’s heat records.
In Germany, low water levels in the Rhine due to droughts have disrupted the supply chain for commodities in the country. Heat waves have also hit the southern US.
The August report of the European Drought Observatory (EDO), overseen by the European Commission, said 47% of Europe is under warning conditions, with a clear deficit of soil moisture, and 17% in a state of alert, in which vegetation is affected.
“The severe drought affecting many regions of Europe since the beginning of the year has been further expanding and worsening as of August,” the report said, adding that the western Europe-Mediterranean region is likely to experience warmer and drier than normal conditions until November.
The key rivers in France, Italy and England besides Spain have drastically dried up causing power outages in many parts. Hydropower generation has been hit, with further impact on other power producers due to a shortage of water to feed cooling systems.
The EDO said mid-August rainfall may have alleviated conditions, but in some cases, it had come with thunderstorms that caused further damage.
Climate Change in China
China has repeatedly warned that it faces a proliferation of extreme weather events in coming years as it tries to adapt to climate change and rise in temperature that are likely to be more severe than elsewhere.
Last week, China’s southwestern province of Sichuan said it would ration power supplies to homes, offices and shopping malls, after having already ordered energy-intensive metals and fertiliser producers to curb operations.
For more than two months, baking temperature has compelled the Asian Tiger to alleviate power shortages and bring more water to the drought-hit basin of the Yangtze river. The administration has also been trying to seed clouds to induce rain.
Cloud Seeding & Power Rationing
Cloud seeding is a weather modification technique deployed through aircraft or drones that improves cloud’s ability to produce rain or snow by introducing tiny ice nuclei into subfreezing clouds. These nuclei provide a base for snowflakes to form.
The central province of Hubei became the latest to unveil an effort to induce rainfall, by sending airplanes to fire the chemical silver iodide into the clouds.
Other regions on the Yangtze have also launched “cloud seeding” programmes, but with cloud cover too thin, operations in some parched areas have stayed on standby.
In what appears to be an official call to cut back use of electricity, government offices were asked to set air conditioners no lower than 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) and use more staircases instead of lifts, the Sichuan Daily, run by the provincial government, said.
Fountains, light shows and commercial activities after dark have been suspended. China’s heat wave has so far run for 64 days, making it the longest since full records began in 1961, state media said.
Flood in Pakistan
Authorities in flood-hit Pakistan breached the country’s largest freshwater lake early this month, displacing up to 100,000 people from their homes but saving more densely populated areas from gathering flood water, a minister said.
The mountain flood was triggered by a sudden bout of heavy rainfall in Swat and adjoining areas in the northern part. The woes have been further worsened by melting glaciers due to heat not witnessed earlier, affecting 33 million people and killing at least 1,290, including 453 children.
The inundation, blamed on climate change, has still been spreading with few parts reporting some recession of water. The United Nations that took note of the people’s plight in the devastating flood, appealed for international aid.
Bane of Bangalore
India hasn’t missed the path of devastation either. Torrential rain left India’s IT capital struggling and threw life out of gear, leading to a public outcry over governance and infrastructure issues.
Visuals of IT workers travelling in tractors to reach workplace amid heavy waterlogging in the city also emerged. And the deluge looked like a scene straight out of the movie “2012”.
Bangalore received the highest ever rainfall in August this year in the last two decades and 164 lakes in the city overtopped banks.
Action Aid Report
Nearly 63 million people could be forced from their homes by 2050 in various parts of the world as rising seas and rivers swallow villages, and drought-hit land no longer supports crops, said Action Aid International and Climate Action Network South Asia in a report.
“Policymakers in the Global North and the Global South are not yet waking up to this reality,” an Action Aid spokesman was quoted as saying.
Rich nations with high planet-warming emissions need to redouble efforts to reduce their carbon pollution. If governments meet a globally agreed goal to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, the number of people that is likely to be affected globally by 2050, could significantly reduce, the spokesman pointed out.
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The author has served no less than Al Jazeera and German TV, and India’s Parliamentarian magazine among others! To his credit goes a deep-rooted empathy for social issues and humans. He has wide experience in covering the northeast of India. His coverage on the 2020 Amphan cyclone in eastern India has easily been the best around the world