Environment & Climate

Extreme heatwaves & unprecedented drought cause havoc & devastation.

By July 7, 2021 No Comments

We are all aware of the impact of rising global temperatures & have seen the increase in devastating & extreme weather fronts become more & more frequent.

British Columbia is currently recovering from an extreme heatwave which may have caused the premature deaths of some 700 people, the loss of hundreds of thousands of wildlife & marine life & seen a reported 180 wildfires destroying entire communities.

In the tiny village of Lytton where scorching temperatures reached 49.5C (121.1F), a wildfire struck with such fury that residents had only minutes to evacuate, an unknown number of residents were still unaccounted for on Friday (1)

The extreme weather seen in the village of Lytton, is known as a ‘heat dome’ a weather phenomenon where a ridge of high pressure traps & compresses warm air, driving up temperatures and baking the region. While not unheard of, climate scientists say heat domes like this will become more common & more intense because of climate change. (1)

Despite there having been a reported surge in “sudden & unexpected deaths” across British Columbia, the stark reality of the impact on wildlife is now only becoming apparent.

A University of British Columbia ecologist, Dr. Chris Harley, believes that the impact on intertidal marine life has seen a huge loss of life. Due to the fact that invertebrates such as mussels, clams & starfish are exposed by the tides; it is now evident that millions of these marine animals would not have survived the some 50°C heat along the shoreline. (2)

The full human & wildlife impact from the North American heatwaves will not be known until the wildfires have been managed & are under control. However, as the human death toll rises, climate scientists have predicted that this may not be the end of the stifling summer heat for North America & they should prepare for more disruption to come.

North America is not the only region to be struggling with the impact of extreme weather conditions.

Madagascar is suffering it’s worst drought for more than four decades & it is predicted that nearly 1M people are at risk of starvation.

The impact of the drought has destroyed crops, dried up rivers & streams used for irrigation & in some areas, swarms of locusts have decimated crops.

Furthermore, years of deforestation & soil erosion have sped up the desertification of land which once produced food. Earlier this year (2021), unprecedented sandstorms swept across large areas of agricultural land, covering fields in sand & stopping seeds from growing – a phenomenon that affected much smaller areas in the past. (3)

Families & famers are being forced to harvest what little early crops they can to either feed themselves, or try & sell, before the crops are completely useless.

As the rainfall continues to deplete, with some five of the last six years rainfall being below average; the southern tip of Madagascar has become not only susceptible to drought, but also the impact of cyclones & continued rising temperatures.

Due to the devastation continued extreme weather has on these regions, ‘Climate migration’ has become a more tangible reality in recent years. As we begin to see areas of the planet become more & more uninhabitable; this eventuality can & will come to fruition.

In 2019 Dolphin N2 reported on some of the outcomes of COP25 & it was the indigenous peoples plight which resonated, with the reality of ‘climate migration’ all too prevalent.

One example of how extreme weather & changes in climate can affect an entire nation; was brought to the agenda by Doreen Debrum, Ambassador of the Marshall Islands.

“People belong to the land, not the other way around. Everyone belongs to somewhere specific & you can always return. If you lose that connection, you will be lost. What if there is no more land or no more functional land, then what becomes of us not only as a nation or a collective people, but also our own selves.

If we leave, there will be no return & what do we become as a culture? For me & early generations of Marshallese the cost of failure is simple; just 30 years ago our forefathers fought hard & long for our political independence & for our statehood. Could you imagine having won an independent state only to realise now that your children & your grand children may see it disappear.” Doreen Debrum, Ambassador of the Marshall Islands to the UN (4)

“In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration—with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding & agricultural disruption.

Since then, various analysts have tried to put numbers on future flows of climate migrants (sometimes called “climate refugees”)—the most widely repeated prediction being 200 million by 2050. (5)

Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/02/canada-wildfires-british-columbia-heatwave
  2. https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/more-than-1-billion-marine-animals-may-have-died-in-b-c-heat-wave-ubc-professor-1.5498668
  3. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2021/05/13/southern-madagascar-risk-famine-amid-worst-drought-40-years/
  4. https://twitter.com/i/status/1202173197908615168
  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48387030