"No one is safe" : Extreme weather conditions hit the rich world.
Floods in Europe killed at least 170 people, most of them in Germany, Europe's most powerful economy. Some of Europe's richest countries were in disarray last weekend as raging rivers swept through the shores of Germany and Belgium, submerging cities, smashing parked cars against trees and leaving Europeans in awe. by the intensity of the destruction.
A few days earlier, in the northwestern United States, an area known for its cool, foggy weather, hundreds of people had died from the heat. In Canada, a forest fire wiped a village off the map. Moscow has been shaken by record temperatures. And this weekend, the northern Rocky Mountains braced for another heat wave as wildfires spread to 12 states in the western United States.
Extreme weather disasters in Europe and North America have highlighted two key facts of science and history: The world as a whole is neither ready to slow climate change nor to live with it. The events of the week have now ravaged some of the richest nations in the world, whose wealth has been made possible by more than a century of burning coal, oil and gas - activities that have rejected greenhouse gases. greenhouse in the atmosphere and which warm the world today.
"I say this as a German: the idea that you could possibly die from the weather is just unbelievable," said Friederike Otto, a physicist at the University of Oxford who studies the links between extreme weather and climate change. There's not even a realization that adaptation is something we need to do right now. We have to save people's lives.
In Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, hundreds of people have been reported missing, suggesting the death toll could rise. It is now questionable whether the authorities properly warned the public of the risks. The bigger question is whether the disasters that pile up in the developed world will affect what the world's most influential countries and companies do to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. They come months before the UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, a time of calculating whether the nations of the world will be able to agree on ways to limit emissions sufficiently. to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The disasters amplified by global warming have left a long trail of death and damage across much of the developing world; destroying cultures in Bangladesh, razing the villages of Honduras and threatening the very existence of small island nations. Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines on the eve of climate negotiations in 2013, prompting representatives from developing countries to push for funds to deal with the loss and damage they face over the years. time for climatic disasters for which they were not responsible. This was rejected by the wealthier countries, including the United States and Europe. “Extreme weather events in developing countries often cause a great deal of death and destruction, but this is seen as our responsibility, not as something made worse by more than a hundred years of greenhouse gases emitted by people. industrialized countries, ” said Ulka Kelkar, climate director in the Indian office of the World Resources Institute. These now escalating disasters in rich countries, she said, show that developing countries seeking the world's help in tackling climate change "have not cried wolf" . Indeed, even since the negotiation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, global emissions have continued to increase. China is now the world's largest emitter. Emissions have been steadily declining in the United States and Europe, but not at the rate required to limit the rise in global temperature. Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, an island nation seriously threatened by rising sea levels, recalled the shared costs. "While not all are affected equally, this tragic event reminds us that in the climate emergency, no one is safe, whether they live on a small island nation like mine or in a developed state. Western Europe, ” Nasheed said in a statement on behalf of a group of countries calling themselves the Climate Vulnerability Forum.
The ferocity of these catastrophes is as remarkable as their timing; namely some time before the global talks in Glasgow to try to reach an agreement on the fight against climate change. The world has so far reported a poor record on cooperation, and this month new diplomatic tensions have surfaced. Among the major economies, the European Commission presented the most ambitious roadmap to tackle climate change last week. She proposed laws to ban the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by 2035, required most industries to pay for the emissions they produce and, most importantly, imposed a tax on imports in from countries with less stringent climate policies. But it is generally expected that these proposals will meet with strong objections both in Europe and also in other countries whose companies could be threatened by the carbon tax that has been proposed. This could further complicate the prospects for global cooperation in Glasgow. This summer's events come after decades of science neglect. Climate models have warned of the disastrous impact of rising temperatures. A comprehensive scientific assessment in 2018 warned that failure to prevent the global average temperature from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to the start of the industrial age, could lead to catastrophic results, from the flooding of coastal towns with poor harvests in various parts of the world.
The report offered world leaders a practical, albeit narrow, route out of the chaos. It demanded that the entire world halve emissions by 2030. Since then, however, global emissions have continued to rise, to such an extent that the global average temperature has risen by more than 1 degree Celsius (about 2 degrees Celsius). Fahrenheit) since 1880, reducing the trajectory to keep the increase below the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius. As the average temperature has risen, it has increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in general.
In recent years, scientific progress has highlighted the part of the responsibility of climate change in extreme events. For example, Otto and a team of international researchers concluded that the extraordinary heat wave in the northwestern United States at the end of June certainly would not have happened without global warming.
At what point are we going to decide to give all the credit that is due to science?