CLIMATE CHANGE IN 2021 – A YEAR OF FIRE, FLOOD & ICE



Climate Change in 2021 – A Year of Fire, Flood & Ice On the back of the devastating global pandemic, the climate crisis has quickly returned to sharp focus, re-illustrated through a string of extreme weather events and catastrophes that are battering many parts of the globe. While the world under lockdown marvelled at recovering ecosystems, clearer air and wildlife roaming in the streets again, the climate crisis took a back seat as we rode out the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as vaccination rates tick upwards and we slowly turn the tide on the virus that has so dramatically changed our lives, weather records are being shattered at an alarming rate, almost as if nature were reminding us that we have more pressing issues to deal with. From powerful hurricanes, raging fires, and unprecedented flooding, never before has humankind seen such an alarming acceleration in the climate crisis. We explore just what the post-COVID 'new normal' means for the war on climate change, what the near-future looks like, and what we're doing to keep up with the relentless change we're facing, already, in 2021. One Disaster After Another Every month this year, it seems that another record has tumbled, a new extreme weather event is going down, or more bad news is on the way. In January, Madrid was blanketed in the heaviest snow in over 50 years, while February saw a ‘big freeze, descend across North America. Amid plunging temperatures and record lows, more than 5 million people lost power in Texas, as unprecedented snow caused chaos across the Lone Star State. March saw the worst dust storm in a decade blanket much of northern China. Following weeks of record-setting levels of pollution, a storm swept across multiple regions, sending air quality indices plunging to readings never before seen and turning the sky an eerie yellow for days. June. Headlines read: “Scorching temperatures sear Moscow. Records shattered.” as Russia’s capital and St. Petersburg saw the mercury nearing the 40°C mark. At the same time, a blistering heatwave across much of the U.S - which killed over 1,000 - was attributed to an abnormal ‘Heat Dome’ blitzing the region. Temperatures as high as 50°C were observed in some areas. The record-busting summer only intensified in July, where the most devastating flooding in over 100 (some even argue 400) years struck western Germany. With many of Europe’s rivers struggling to contain the massive amounts of rain that fell into their catchment areas, other countries across the EU suffered catastrophic losses in life and property. By August, wildfires were ravaging much of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean regions, with large swathes of forest in Greece, Italy, and Turkey burned to ashes. Page 1 of 3

And in September, Hurricane Ida - second only to Katrina in Southern U.S landfall intensity - stormed ashore as a category four storm, pummelling the Gulf States before triggering catastrophic flooding across the U.S Northeast. Memories of the 2005 mega-storm and ruthless Sandy resurfaced among the deluge. These extreme weather events are showing no sign of slowing down or letting up. With each new hurricane, typhoon and cyclone season outdoing the last, bigger, hotter and more destructive wildfires, and colder winter blasts, than ever before, nerves are fraying at the prospect of what lies ahead. The Situation at the Moment As the Biden administration tussles with multiple ongoing crises, the world waits for the president’s climate agenda to take centre stage. Following an election campaign that put tackling climate change near the top of his agenda, Biden’s plans were put on hold as he inherited a country in the throes of a massive COVID resurgence, made worse by the double challenges in Afghanistan and on the US-Mexico border. European leaders are still doing their best to contain the raging pandemic and vaccinate populations before Christmas, while Britain deals with the fallout of BREXIT. As China’s surging markets are beginning to hear the plight of climate change activists and scientists, the World’s 2nd biggest economy is fast becoming the biggest threat of all. And straining relations between West and East mean that little cooperation can be expected at the upcoming COP26 Summit in Scotland. Many other countries across the globe have also either suspended or cancelled their green and eco- friendly projects, redirecting funds to the ongoing health emergency. A Silver Lining While our climate change agenda has been waiting in the wings as we hunkered down at home, some good news has kept us feeling optimistic about the environment. Already, we've seen impressive gains in technology and policy-making during the pandemic itself, and as the world returns to normal, people are refocusing their efforts. The fleeting respite given to the world in reduced emissions from lockdown restrictions saw heart- warming stories and images of the planet enjoying an – admittedly brief - break from aircraft, traffic and CO2-belching industries. On the flip side, however, we're now facing a global energy crisis that threatens to undo the gains made over the past couple of years. As economies continue to get into the swing of things post-COVID, a perfect energy storm is brewing that may yet spell disaster for climate change progress. Last Chance Saloon With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) around the corner, scientists are warning leaders that this year is the last real shot we have at saving ourselves from doing irreparable damage to the planet. While we've heard these ominous admonitions before, this time around, things feel a little different. For once, almost all academic circles are in agreement – even the pessimists are finding it hard to deny the fire, flood and ice-driven evidence of severe disruptions in our climate. With new average temperature increase estimates readily being brought forward, and diminishing chances of avoiding crossing the 1.5°C increase threshold in the next few decades, unless rapid, immediate and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are made, holding temperatures under even a two-degree increase will soon be out of our reach. Page 2 of 3

So, as we re-emerge and get back to living normal lives, let's not forget what was important before we were asked to don a mask and head into lockdown. Yes, weather events have always been a part of life on Earth, but the frequency and sheer scale of these catastrophes in 2021 should be a cause for alarm. References & Links: END Total Word Count – 1 045 Words

  1. https://weather.com/forecast/regional/news/2021-06-28-record-heat-wave-northwest- washington-oregon-canada

  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/world/europe/spain-snow-storm-filomena.html

  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56076686

  4. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/largest-dust-storm-over-decade-blankets- china-180977287/

  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/57600077

  6. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/heat-wave-sweeps-pacific-northwest-us-southeast- 2021-07-30/

  7. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/23/europe/germany-floods-belgium-climate-change- intl/index.html

  8. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/13/summer-of-fire-blazes- mediterranean-more-extreme-weather-forecast

  9. https://earth.org/hurricane-ida-remnants-leave-at-least-46-dead-across-us- northeast/?gclid=CjwKCAjw5c6LBhBdEiwAP9ejG3cIGlgjJUrN0dkTFotHLjTftXjo2KB0WTaw5g_ VBQKMbtcM6HVv-RoCleMQAvD_BwE

  10. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/18/joe-biden-climate-crisis- legislation

  11. https://ukcop26.org/

  12. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/07/business/global-energy-crisis/index.html

Keyword Frequencies:

  • Climate Change

  • Weather Events

  • Temperature

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