Bolivia is, as we’ve seen, both particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and one of the ‘preview’ countries already experiencing significant and widespread impacts as we speak. But the present-day effects of climate change are not limited to this landlocked country in South America – extreme events caused by climactic changes are now regular headline news all over the globe…
Russian Wildfires of 2010
In May 2010 Russian entered into what was to become the hottest summer on record, leading to an outbreak of drought and wildfires across the country. By early August 300 to 400 new fires were spreading across Western Russia every day, resulting in a think smoky haze that blanketed urban areas. Both the human and economic costs were unprecedented. 55, 736 Russians were killed by the heat wave and the wildfires it produced (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters). The droughts and wildfires collectively destroyed over a quarter of the country’s crops, forcing the government to ban all grain exports in an attempt to stem steep price rises domestically. This policy measure rippled through the global economy, leading to inflation on basic food commodities and highlighting the potential impacts of climate change on future food sustainability.
Pakistani Floods of 2010 and 2011
About the same time that the Russian wildfires were burning out of control, thousands of miles away in Pakistan floods of historic proportions deluged the country. The heavy monsoon rains eventually covered one-fifth of Pakistan’s landmass, destroying the homes and livelihoods of millions of Pakistanis. Beyond the immediate devastation caused by the overflowing of the Indus River and its tributaries, water-borne diseases such as cholera and dengue began to spread in flood-stricken regions. While this has been described as the largest natural disaster in Pakistani history in terms of human and economic cost, the 2011 flooding in the Sindh region compounded the already precarious situation in which many residents already found themselves. The UN children’s agency spokesman in Pakistan told the BBC that “this is another huge flood that has hit Pakistan in less than a year so it’s really a double disaster.”
Texan Drought of 2012
Like the flooding that was compounded by its multiple year duration in Pakistan, prolonged intense drought in Texas has likewise been incredibly destructive – both economically and environmentally. Agricultural losses alone cost upward of $5.2 billion, with a particularly grave outlook for cotton production (of which Texas is responsible for two-thirds of American export). The impacts have been equally dire for cattle herders as migration reached 1.4 million heads – the largest decline for the state’s cattle population in recorded history. In addition to herd migration, the environmental impacts are striking. Lakes have dried up and large swaths of forest are dying off around the state. According to the Texas forest service approximately 5.6 million trees in cities and towns across the state were killed due to the severity of the droughts being experienced, with an estimated cost of $560 million just to remove those that present potential safety threats.
Further reading on extreme climate events
2001 -2010: A decade of climate extremes (Report from the World Meteorological Association)
Climate report warns extreme weather events are now the norm - ABC News, 7th August 2013
Coping with Climate Change: 2 Texas Towns Struggle for Water - PBS Newshour, March 2012
As manmade climate change continues to ravage countries around the world, how will people respond? Share your ideas with us in the Climate Change Classroom.