Muslim News: There is no denying that climate change has been affecting the higher frequency and intensity of natural disasters in the last quarter century. In the last decade, there has been a marked increase in the number of severe hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes, heat waves, and mudslides.
Environmental degradation is directly correlated to these phenomena, as the greenhouse effect traps heat in the atmosphere, thus providing more energy to drive these events. Greater amounts of moisture and heat are perfect conditions for hurricanes. Mudslides often happen as a result of deforestation because the root systems keep the soil together.
There has been skepticism about climate change, but that era of questioning is coming to an end. All over the world, people have directly observed warmer or at least more extreme temperatures. This is not attributable to one anthropogenic cause, but all of them.
The interconnectedness of ecosystems has yet to be fully realised, as we do not visibly see most of the damage that has been caused. Even with an attempt to document extreme weather events and research the correlation they have to human-induced climate change, there is much more happening in the sky and within the oceans that most humans are oblivious to.
Natural variability in weather is expected, and often overlooked, until it shows itself as one extreme or another. The oceans are warmer, carbon dioxide emissions are extremely high, and biodiversity is being lost at an ever-alarming rate.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has conducted research on the matter and put categories for four sectors impacted by global climate change and their projected effects. The categories include: agriculture/forestry, water resources, human health/mortality and industry/settlement/society.
On their website, they also reference the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “Since 1950, the number of heat waves has increased and widespread increases have occurred in the numbers of warm nights. The extent of regions affected by droughts has also increased as precipitation over land has marginally decreased while evaporation has increased due to warmer conditions. Generally, numbers of heavy daily precipitation events that lead to flooding have increased, but not everywhere. Tropical storm and hurricane frequencies vary considerably from year to year, but evidence suggests substantial increases in intensity and duration since the 1970s. In the extratropics, variations in tracks and intensity of storms reflect variations in major features of the atmospheric circulation, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation.”
The North Atlantic Oscillation has to do with atmospheric pressure at sea level and its effect on westerly winds and storm tracks.
There is a great emphasis on weather events, but natural disasters in general have been greatly affected by the damage that has been imposed on the earth through various means such as: the burning of fossil fuels, mining, deforestation, water pollution through waste disposal and damming and the infringement upon many pristine environments leading to species endangerment and extinction.
Often, the consequences of our actions do not immediately manifest, but gradually come about, and sometimes culminate in the form of extreme disasters, killing thousands of people.
Some extreme disasters of the recent past include: the Haiti earthquake (2010), Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004), Russian Heat Wave (2010), Rio de Janeiro floods and mudslides (2011), Japanese earthquake and tsunami (2011), UK heat-wave (2011), US tornadoes (2011), Pakistan floods (2010), China flooding and landslides (2010), Canada heat wave (2005) and Hurricane Katrina in the US (2005). The list goes on, but these events are of significant importance and our reluctance to see the link between them and human-induced climate change allows us to continue on this path.
Perhaps, because the victims of these disasters are often poorer nations with less stable infrastructure to protect themselves, the root of the problem is easier to ignore.
The alliance being formed to investigate extreme weather events and their pertinence to global climate shifts is the first important step in better understanding our impact on the earth.
Perhaps in the next decade great scientific strides will be made in being able to prepare for such disasters, or reduce our negative impact on the planet to avoid them altogether. Awareness is the first step in fixing the problem.
By Sarah Marshall, University of South Florida
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- Teen girls face heaviest risk from climate impacts – report (chimalaya.org)
- Experts demystify link between extreme weather and climate change (chimalaya.org)
- India opposes discussion on climate change in UNSC (chimalaya.org)
- Species affected by climate change: to shift or not to shift? (chimalaya.org)
- Climate change adaptation challenge (chimalaya.org)
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>