By Ashna Butani
2017 has seen a drastic increase in the number of natural calamities to have hit our planet. Extreme weather, tsunami threats, floods, hurricanes, droughts and earthquakes have made it clear, that we need to double our efforts to reduce the impact of such calamities. The sheer plethora of natural disasters to hit us in the year 2017 causes us to ponder about our future on this planet. Are we inching towards climate change, or is the number of calamities just a coincidence?
The deluge of natural disasters
The entire globe has been covered in natural disasters, from the United States to South Asia. Almost every continent has been struck with an alarming rate of natural disasters. Ranging from landslides to earthquakes, 2017 is proving to be a wake-up call for the world’s population.
Mexico’s biggest earthquake this century hit the country killing 96 and leaving 2.5 million people in need of help. A cyclone accompanied with severe rains killed 117 in Zimbabwe. Flooding and landslides, resulting from monsoon rains have affected 41 million people in Nepal, Bangladesh and India since summer. A landslide in Columbia resulted in around 300 deaths, while landslides and flooding killed 213 people in Sri Lanka. Heavy rainfall in Sierra Leone caused a mudslide that killed more than 600 people.
At the same time, Hurricane Harvey hit the United States. Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean and entered Florida. In Florida alone, more than 5 million people evacuated their homes. The damages caused by the two disasters are around $200 billion, which is half the total cost spent to repair damages of all the hurricanes over the past 50 years.
What is climate change?
We can infer from the number of disasters in the last few months, that evidence of climate change is compelling. 15 of the hottest years in history have been recorded since 2000. Scientists, farmers and authorities across the globe have observed the changing patterns of rainfall, floods and temperature rises. Heat and rainfall records cause havoc everywhere while oceans warm and glaciers and ice caps melt faster than expected. It is clear that climate change is no longer a myth.
Contrary to popular belief, climate change is not a causal agent. It did not cause the hurricanes and floods that struck our planet this year. Rather, it is a descriptive term, describing the change in climate. The cause for climate change is the increase in heat energy trapped in the atmosphere, as a result of an increase in greenhouse gases.
Climate scientists have little doubt that global warming and climate change is real. However, they remain divided in their ideas. Some believe that all the disasters in 2017 are inter-linked and global warming will cause more violent calamities. While another set of scientists believe that it is dangerous to read too much into recent events since they are unrelated. They are unable to point towards a single cause that may have lead to the sudden upsurge of disasters.
Areas vulnerable to climate change
South Asia is home to 1/5th of the world’s population. A study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals that swathes of South-Asia will be uninhabitable by the year 2100. Around 2% of India’s population is exposed to dangerous combinations of heat and humidity. 70% of the population will be exposed to this if nothing is done to mitigate global warming in the region. “Climate change is not an abstract concept, it is impacting huge numbers of vulnerable people,” said MIT professor Eltahir.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africa is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Researchers have found that North Africa is already incredibly hot, and is on the verge of compromising human habitability. By the middle of the 21st century, these regions will face temperatures that hit 46-degree Celsius during the day. The Middle East will be faced with a similar temperature increase.
Europe, that is in the midst of a migrant crisis, will see an increase in the number of immigrants, as the living conditions worsen in Africa and the Middle East. Even though some areas will be more affected than others, the deleterious effects of climate change will manifest itself across the globe.
What does the future have in store for us?
Even Donald Trump, who believes that global warming is a Chinese hoax, was struck by the irony of Hurricane Irma slamming into his Caribbean Estate. The current situation, calls for an increasing amount of consciousness, from sceptics and realists, alike.
The recent developments may or may not be inter-related. However, it is clear that it serves as a wake-up call for people across the globe. Governments are expected to increase their expenses on mitigating the effects of global warming. Only if the efforts are increased substantially, will we be able to make the planet habitable for future generations?
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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