Climate hazards are natural events in weather cycles. Yes, while it is certainly frightening, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, flooding, and typhoons are all part of the natural cycle of events. However, what’s not normal is the grand scale of destruction and devastation that we have seen in the last few years.
Devastating climate disasters were seen in various parts of the world. Hundreds if not thousands have lost their lives to heatwaves, flooding, and hurricanes. Millions more have lost their homes and livelihoods. And what’s even worse is that these dangerous and more frequent extreme weather events will seem to go on for years—if we do not take action. (Read: Pope Francis Gives Support To Africa’s ‘Laudato Tree Project’)
According to NASA Earth Observatory, while climate change may not be responsible for these natural disasters, it can impact future catastrophes. The increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere boosts temperature over most land surfaces, which may cause droughts, more intense storms, more rainfalls during monsoon season, and heatwaves.
My Pope lists five extreme weather events in the past year that show the devastating effects of climate change.
Argentina and Uruguay Floods in January 2019
The Pampas region of Argentina and Uruguay began 2019 with extremely heavy rain that led to flooding. Rainfall levels set new records, and the floods killed five people and an estimated $2.5 billion in destruction. It is estimated as Argentina’s second-most expensive flood. More than 11,000 people were displaced from their homes. (Read: ‘Dam Operators Must Be Held Accountable for Cagayan Valley Floods’ – Experts)
Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri described the floods as “the consequence of climate change”. Scientists said that extreme rainfall has increased due to human-caused warming. Heavy rains and flood risk will continue to grow unless carbon emissions fall rapidly.
Iran Flooding in March 2019
Iran experienced heavy rain from mid-March to April that led to flooding and landslides. In one area of northeastern Iran, most of a year’s worth of rain fell in just one day. Twenty-six of Iran’s 31 provinces were severely damaged—78 people were killed while two million more needed humanitarian assistance. According to reports, 314 bridges were destroyed and 179,000 houses were damaged. One million hectares of farmland were also flooded.
India and Bangladesh’s Cyclone Fani in May 2019
Cyclone Fani was the strongest storm that India had experienced in over 20 years. It hit India and Bangladesh from May 2 to 4, 2019, and had wind speeds of up to 200 km/h that led to storm surges of 1.5 meters. The widespread damage was caused by heavy rainfall and flooding, which killed at least 89 people. More than 3.4 million people were displaced, and 140,000 hectares of cropland were damaged. (Read: How a Slight Change in Your Diet Can Help Fight Climate Change)
The cyclone is said to be a reflection of climate change—warmer ocean waters increased the energy available to it, warmer air temperatures allowed it to hold and then drop more water, and sea-level rise from melting polar caps increased the storm surge.
China’s Typhoon Lekima in August 2019
Typhoon Lekima hit China in August 2019 and had winds of 185 k/h. It was recorded as the fifth-most intense storm to hit China since 1949—rainfall reached 40 cm in some areas that led to widespread flooding. It caused major damage to China as transport systems were shut down, two million people were evacuated, and an estimated 2.7 million homes were left without power. It killed 101 people and is the second-most costly typhoon in Chinese history with an estimated $10 billion in damages. (Read: 3 Easy Steps to Restore Flooded Furniture and Appliances)
The intense typhoons that make landfall in Asia are results of warming oceans and the rapid increase of global temperatures.
California Fires in October 2019
Several major fires broke out in October 2019 in the United States. The largest recorded was the Kincade Fire, which burned over 30,000 hectares of land before it was contained in early November. At least three people were killed and the economic costs have been estimated at over $25 billion. (Read: Only 5% of the Koala population remains in Australia. Help them before it’s too late!)
According to studies, the increase in the fires in that particular area was the consequence of high temperatures drying out forests and creating more fuel for wildfires. Fifteen wildfires have occurred in California’s recorded history since 2000.