Extreme weather pummels countries across globe


From France to China, Guatemala to the US, the last few days have seen the world battered by extreme weather events from fatal floods, storms and tornadoes to scorching heat – events scientists say are aggravated by climate change. Floods in southern France have been responsible for at least 19 deaths and caused havoc; China is reeling from a typhoon which killed 11 people and triggered deadly tornadoes; 600 people are missing and nine dead in Guatemala due to a landslide after heavy rains; the Carolinas in the US have seen a “once in a thousand years” storm which has upturned bridges and ripped open dams; and much of Australia is scorching in spring temperatures that are breaking records. The damage is set to continue unless action is taken: at least 10 million people will go hungry this year because of failing crops caused by one of the strongest El Niño climatic events on record, Oxfam has warned. Ripping apart communities, bringing death, sickness, hunger and conflict, extreme weather is a terrifying manifestation of the destructive power of climate change and an urgent signal to governments that the human and material costs of not acting will be immeasurable.


Key Points

  • Climate change makes extreme weather worse. 2015 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded. Experts say the chances of ‘freak’ floods and heatwaves are higher than ever before. Each extreme weather event has a massive toll on people and their communities, and the poorest are often amongst the worst hit.
  • Not acting would change the world as we know it. Major cities around the world could be submerged if we keep burning fossil fuels, as could many island states. Climate change-related food shortages would increase the risk of economic shocks and civil unrest, analysts say. ‘Business as usual’ will mean dealing with unusual, unforeseen and unprecedented change.
  • Going for renewable energy can be the prevention and the cure. Moving to renewable energy will slash the greenhouse gases that cause global warming and exacerbate extreme weather. It will also improve health, create jobs and increase countries’ energy independence. And with new figures showing renewable power is often cheaper than coal and gas power, there are no viable arguments left against making the switch.



Tools and Resources



  • “This is yet another example, like Sandy or Irene, of weather on ‘steroids’, another case where climate change worsened the effects of an already extreme meteorological event.” – Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University
  • “The convergence of these statistically more likely events with what are very clearly climate related changes in sea level is a cautionary perspective into the future. It’s one that we really have to pay a lot of attention to and not just write it off as something that isn’t going to happen again.” – Dana Beech, executive director of the state’s Coastal Conservation League
  • “We just cannot afford to get bogged down in someone’s ideological perspective of the world. There’s really not that much dispute in the need to act.” – Dana Beech, executive director of the state’s Coastal Conservation League

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