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Climate Carnage: Things Can Only Get Worse

Op-Ed 2023-05-31, 7:54pm


The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has now reported on the Staggering’ rise in climate emergencies in the last 20 years. Credit. Manipadma Jena-IPS

By Baher Kamal

ROME, May 29 2023 (IPS) - Please stop repeating all this softened wording, such as climate change, climate-related hazards, climate crisis, or extreme weather events… And just call it what it really is: climate carnage.

Indeed, several scientific findings, released ahead of the 2023 World Environment Day (5 June), staggeringly indicate that the world-spread climate carnage is predicted to hit all-time records.

See: global temperatures are set to break records during the next five years, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on 17 May 2023 alerted.

Warmest year ever

“There is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period, will be the warmest on record.”

The world-leading meteorological body then informs that such a rise is fuelled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño weather pattern.

El Niño is a naturally occurring climate pattern associated with the warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the Central and Eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It occurs on average every two to seven years, and episodes usually last nine to 12 months.

El Niño steers weather patterns around the world, WMO further explains, “can aggravate extreme weather events,” and its events are typically associated with increased rainfall in parts of southern South America, the Southern United States, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia.

“This year is already predicted to be hotter than 2022 and the fifth or sixth hottest year on record. 2024 could be even hotter as the impact of the weather phenomenon sets in.” 

‘Staggering rise…’

Mind you: This WMO report is just an update that would be logically expected. Indeed, it actually adds to earlier reiterated findings about the worse to come.

For instance, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has now reported on the “Staggering’ rise in climate emergencies in the last 20 years.’

According to its report, there has already been an 80% increase in the number of people affected by disasters since 2015. 

Out of control

“However, many of the lessons from past disasters have been ignored.”

The consequences are that now a steadily increasing number of people are being affected by larger, ever more complex and more expensive disasters because decision-makers are failing to put people first and prevent risks from becoming disasters.

“Many of these disasters are climate-related, and in light of the latest warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), countries are likely to face even worse disasters if global temperatures continue to rise.”

“Brutally unequal”

The impacts are “brutally unequal,” with developing countries hit the hardest, as highlighted by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

Its report multi-country review points to the rapid accumulation of risk that is building up, intersecting with the risks of breaching planetary boundaries, biodiversity and ecosystem limits – which is spiralling out of control.

Not so new, anyway. Indeed the UNDRR chief, Mami Mizutori, reminded already at the end of 2020 that the international community pledged in Paris in 2015 to reduce global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

‘Uninhabitable hell…’

However, she added, “It was “baffling” that nations were continuing knowingly “to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people”.

One doesn’t have to look hard to find examples of how disasters are becoming worse, said Mami Mizutori. “The sad fact is that many of these disasters are preventable because they are caused by human decisions.”

The point is that already a year ago, the UNDRR warned that “by deliberately ignoring risk, the World is bankrolling its own destruction.”

But this should not be surprising: many fingers have been pointing to the responsibility of the short-sighted politicians, who are too often influenced by the powerful money-making business, that they end up turning a blind eye on such mass destruction. 

Drought, heat “100 times more likely”

On 5 May 2023, the World Meteorological Organization reported that climate ‘change’ made both the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa and the record April temperatures in the Western Mediterranean at least 100 times more likely.

Regarding the Horn of Africa, it said that the drought was made much more severe because of the low rainfall and increased evaporation caused by higher temperatures in a world which is now nearly 1.2°C warmer than pre-industrial times.

Mediterranean heatwave

In late April, parts of Southwestern Europe and North Africa experienced a massive heatwave that brought extremely high temperatures never previously recorded in the region at this time of the year, with temperatures reaching 36.9 – 41 °C in the four countries.

“The event broke temperature records by a large margin, against the backdrop of an intense drought.”

“The intense heat wave came on top of a preexisting multi-year drought, exacerbating the lack of water in Western Mediterranean regions and threatening the 2023 crop yield.” 

Spreading everywhere

Across the world, climate change has made heat waves more common, longer and hotter, reports WMO based on researchers’ analysis that looked at the average of the maximum temperature for three consecutive days in April across southern Spain and Portugal, most of Morocco and the northwest part of Algeria. 

Crops under threat

As other analyses of extreme heat in Europe have found, “extreme temperatures are increasing faster in the region than climate models have predicted,” said the researchers.

Until overall greenhouse gas emissions are halted, global temperatures will continue to increase and events like these will become more frequent and severe.

“The intense heat wave came on top of a preexisting multi-year drought, exacerbating the lack of water in Western Mediterranean regions and threatening the 2023 crop yield.” 

And the carnage goes on

In short, the ongoing climate carnage is expected to move from the worst to the worst.

And anyway, the term ‘carnage’ should not sound at all new.

Indeed, it was already spelt out by the United Nations’ top chief, António Guterres, in September 2022, following his field visit to the vast Pakistan’s regions impacted by unprecedented devastating floods.

The people of Pakistan are the victims of “a grim calculus of climate injustice”, said Guterres, reminding that while the country was responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is paying a “supersized price for man-made climate change”.

The UN chief stated that he saw in those regions “a level of climate carnage beyond imagination.”

By the way, do you expect that the coming COP28 in Dubai (November 30th-December 12th, 2023) will come out with anything different from the usual ‘politically correct,” “radical chic” statements?