Despite scientific claims and growing evidence of increased disasters led by climate change, there are people who still believe climate change is a hoax. On the other hand, the recent extreme weather events in Germany, China, and elsewhere in the world have raised concerns as to why scientists could not predict the scale and intensity of the said events beforehand.
It's indeed a paradox – while one group doesn't believe in climate change, the other group expects scientists/experts/researchers to be as accurate as possible in their predictions regarding future events influenced by climate change.
What, however, seems true is - the world is bracing for extreme events more than usual. It is also striking that the extreme events surprisingly have exposed the vulnerabilities of different countries, including the rich ones.
Notably, the global mean temperature has already shot up by 1.1° C compared to the pre-industrial levels and the world is bracing for a temperature rise of around 3° C by the end of this century.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UN bodies, and various research institutions warned us a long time ago that the consequences of unabated mean temperature rise would be severe, beginning with changes in rainfall patterns, increasing precipitation, rising floods, and droughts, and so on.
Some study findings also indicated that people would certainly adapt to a certain degree but even the planned adaptation measures might not be enough. To this end, the recent extreme events have revealed some shocking things.
First, the scale and intensity of these events were unimaginable even a few weeks ago. The devastation in Germany, a country very well-known for its efforts on climate change mitigation and which is undertaking different nature-based solutions for adaptation, is something never seen before. The precipitation records along with a death toll of more than 150 have surpassed any projection of the past, as experts have claimed.
Second, even a country like Germany is perhaps not prepared enough to tackle extreme weather events, such as floods attributable to heavy rainfalls. Many experts/scientists strongly believe that the record-breaking precipitation in Germany is highly likely due to human induced climate change. According to the Guardian, the interior minister of Germany blamed climate change for the disaster.
Elsewhere in Zhengzhou, China, the precipitation has been record-breaking as well. In only three days, Zhengzhou experienced a year's worth of rain. The resulting flood, according to media reports, caught people off-guard and many drowned when the underground metro rail was flooded.
The media further reported that the people of Zhengzhou have never witnessed rain of such a scale. In fact, on the basis of the meteorological data, this rain has been the heaviest over the past sixty years, as reported in NPR.
In another case, London has recently come across the rainfall equivalent to a month in just three hours. The people in London have never seen or heard of anything like this before.
Earlier, the deadly heat waves in the U.S. and Canada with temperatures reaching around 50° C have raised serious alarms that human induced climate change is making extreme weather even worse than predicted.
Wildfires this year in the US, as reported in the Guardian, have already affected forests of more than 2 million acres, crossing the damages recorded last year. The awfully hot and dry conditions are creating frequent and destructive wildfires.
These devastations, for example, caused by extreme precipitation and hot/dry weather conditions around the world are proof that climate change is a present-day problem.
They also exhibit what might be lurking in the future. And as far as scientific recommendations are concerned, the "change" will continue unless we reverse the wrong trends we currently follow.
In this vein, the main policy responses would be to ramp up both mitigation and adaptation measures. While mitigation addresses the root causes of climate change, adaptation lowers the risks being posed by climate change induced events.
Both measures shall be undertaken simultaneously for several reasons. Recent extreme events have shown Germany and other European countries that they, too, are vulnerable to extreme events, and that even seemingly prepared countries may be caught off guard. Hence, much work is still to be done on the adaptation front, irrespective of the resources of a country.
As I previously stated, people and countries adapt to some extent to changing circumstances, but this adaptation appears to fall short in the case of extreme events such as the recent ones.
Additionally, if we, for instance, dramatically mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and capture a lot of GHG emissions from the atmosphere, we would still experience the consequences of change through which the climate has already undergone.
All these call for interventions that would lead to enhanced adaptation and mitigation. Unless we are resilient enough, we would not be able to fight climate change. Along with this, governments around the world should increase their support for scientific research in order to allow scientists/researchers to forecast the future with greater accuracy and contribute to technological development in terms of climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Finally, all countries need to step up to achieve common goals, i.e., containing the overshooting of global mean temperature and enhancing resilience, while taking into account their differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. We must correct the errors that have caused the climate to change.
Shafiqul Alam is an environmental economist.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.