In the past 12 and a half months great areas of the world have experienced extreme, crazy and topsy-turvy weather. Both the western and eastern worlds suffered a midsummer breakdown:
The hottest summer (more than 100 degrees F for the first time) in Russia, sparking wildfires and blanketing Moscow with toxic smog;
The heaviest monsoon rains in Pakistan, causing rivers to rampage over the countryside, flooding thousands of villages, killing 1,500 people and leaving 14 million homeless;
The worst floods in China in decades which, together with landslides, killed at least 1,100 people and left more than 600 missing;
The wettest midsummer (some call it “Nashville’s ‘Katrina’”) in Iowa in 127 years of record-keeping, floodwaters forcing hundreds from their homes;
The calving off from the great Petermann Glacier in Greenland’s northwest of a 100-square-mile chunk of ice.
Winter in the West (the cold season in the East) has been especially harsh. A “Snowmaggeddon” has blanketed huge areas of the United States. From extreme, brain-cooking heat during the summer, the weather has turned to the other extreme, with record snowfalls being experienced in areas that usually saw mild, gentle winters in the past.
And the end is not yet in sight. In the first half of January devastating floods have hit Australia; a tsunami-like wall of water ripped through Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, tossing cars like toys, lifting houses from their foundations, and displacing hundreds of thousands of people (very reminiscent of “Ondoy”!). Thousands of kilometers away, in Brazil, more than 500 people have died in mudslides near Rio de Janeiro. In the Philippines, heavy rains have lashed the Bicol region, the Visayas and Mindanao, killing scores of people, displacing hundreds of thousands and causing billions of pesos in damage to crops, public works and private property.
Why the freakish, crazy weather? Scientists are hotly debating the issue, but the great majority say that it is caused by global warming. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has long predicted that rising global temperatures would produce more frequent and intense heat waves and more intense rainfalls. The IPCC’s most recent assessment report says, “It is now more likely than not that human activity has contributed to observed increases in heat waves, intense precipitation events and the intensity of tropical cyclones.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has reported that 2010 was “the hottest meteorological year.” For ber-meteorologist Dr. Jess Masters of Weather Underground, 2010 was the year of living dangerously (insofar as the weather was concerned): “The stunning extremes we witnessed give me concern that our climate is showing early signs of instability.”
Masters continued: “... I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gasses we are pumping into the air… Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame… This year’s wild ride was just the beginning.”
It was extremely fatal, destructive and frightening in many parts of the world, and yet, for a weather expert “it was just the beginning.” Wild, wild 2010 should make all nations take more aggressive steps to try to control global warming. And everyone should contribute to the effort, from the poorest country to the richest, which are among those who are producing the greatest volume of greenhouse gases.
Governments and the private sector will have to study and adopt strong measures to control emissions; promote the use of human-friendly sources of power such as solar, wind, geothermal and ocean wave; curb deforestation; make rational land use plans; and resettle the poor who are always vulnerable on flood plains. Bold, aggressive measures have to be adopted, and the richer nations, which cause the most pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, have the moral obligation to provide funds to the poorer ones to help them cope with the problem.
We are now really seeing and experiencing “the dark side of climate change.” Unless we begin solving the problem now, we will be condemning our children, and our children’s children to a very harsh future, and probably, even to an early death.