Understanding Climate Change and Natural Disasters

Photo Credit: 12019 via Pixabay

All over the world, we hear about shocking earthquakes, powerful tsunamis and devastating cyclones all happening one after the other. Coupled with the current climate crisis, it’s natural to assume that the seemingly increasing and more devastating weather occurrences are attributed to the effects of climate change. However, the link between climate change and natural disasters isn’t always that straightforward. Below, we’ll try to dissect current claims on the connection between climate change and the increasing amount and severity of natural disasters.

Increasing Droughts

A drought is a prolonged dry period in the natural climate cycle. In recent decades, the outcomes of droughts have been lessened through man-made irrigation systems. With the negative effects brought about climate change, experts predict that droughts will become longer and more extreme by the end of the century. Researchers from the University of Arkansas found that if we don’t take steps to mitigate climate change, up to 60% of wheat-growing areas worldwide could have severe, prolonged and simultaneous droughts in the near future. If this prediction does materialize, this could shock the global food system and lead to food insecurity for many parts of the world. The findings reflect more than future predictions, as cases like Syria have already proven how intense droughts can upset a whole region.

Severity of Tropical Cyclones

Aside from droughts and heat waves, rainfall is another indicator of the detrimental effects of climate change on natural weather occurrences. The Independent interviewed Dr. Friederike Otto, the deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, who said “We’re now finding that for many kinds of extreme weather events, especially heatwaves and extreme rainfall, we can be quite confident about the effect of climate change.” The US Geological Survey found that because of warmer ocean temperatures, tropical storms are becoming more severe. Most of these tropical storms are affecting archipelagic countries in certain parts of Asia. Daydreaming in Paradise says that the vulnerability of Southeast Asia to natural disasters is not only due to geographic location, but to how people there live. The region is full of young rapidly urbanizing economies where large populations are squeezed into poorly designed cities. As tropical storms become more common and more severe, these densely populated areas are at high risk.

Danger of Premature Conclusions

However, there is also a certain danger in immediately associating extreme natural disasters with climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report on hurricanes and global warming found that while anthropogenic warming is likely to cause more intense tropical cyclones, it’s still premature to conclude that the same can be said for other natural disasters like Atlantic hurricanes and earthquakes. While hurricane patterns are likely to be affected by man-made forces if they haven’t already, scientists have currently found no direct ties to the recent Hurricanes Harvey or Irma. Thus, although compelling arguments to the extricable causation between climate change and current natural disasters seem hard to deny, it’s always important to take everything with a grain of salt and look for claims that have proper scientific backing.

Written exclusively for ENN.com
by Melanie Friedman

by Editor

Monday, October 21st, 2019 at 12:02
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