Extreme heat, wildfires and the cost of climate change

From water shortages to wildfires, the past 12 months have raised global awareness about the economic and human cost of extreme heat events. There have been wildfires in places that are unprepared for such outbreaks due to unusually hot weather.

Drought and blistering heat have been turning forests into tinderboxes in places that were previously fire-free.

Sweden has experienced 65 fires already this year, up from an annual average of three fires over the past decade. Blazes are now happening as far north as the Arctic Circle, according to Copernicus, the European Union‘s Earth observation programme.

At least 91 people died last month in the worst wildfire to hit Greece in decades. Fire raced through a seaside area northeast of Athens.

The entire community of Keswick, California, has been turned to ash – nothing remains. The fire was described as a “tornado of flames” and there was nothing firefighters could do to stop it.

The residents were able to flee just before the fire overtook them, but the future of the town is now in doubt.

“I don’t know they will have the resources to rebuild the town … It’s a low-income type of area so I am not sure a lot of people will be able to rebuild,” says Leonard Moty, Shasta County supervisor.

So, how unusual are this year’s extreme weather events? What’s the cost of climate change? And how to move forward?

“At the moment these events feel slightly unusual … but if we start looking forward and factor in climate change, then this will become the new normal,” explains Sam Fankhauser, director of the Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment at the London School of Economics.

“There are predictions that the kind of heat we have this year, we might experience every other year from about 2040 onwards. There’s quite a clear link between the probability of having a heatwave and climate change,” he points out.

“The climate or the weather fluctuates, but you add a stock of temperature on top of that fluctuation and we’re about one degree warmer now on global average than we were in pre-industrial times 100 years ago. That means we can statistically start to show that the probability of certain events increases because of climate change. What we’re currently seeing in Northern Europe, preliminary estimates tell us, is about two times as likely than it would have been if there wasn’t man-made global warming.”

Fankhauser says climate change isn’t limited to extreme heat events and we will have to adapt.

“Climate change affects a lot more variables that can be dangerous to us, we’ll see more drought events and that will be really, really disruptive … We might have too much water in other instances … flooding events, hurricanes … There are very high damages associated with too much water as much as damage from not enough water,” he says.

“It will be very disruptive [to the economy], but we can adapt to certain things. We can change our agricultural practices … we can air-condition our houses … But it will be ultimately very disruptive and we’ll have to change our infrastructure … It will be worth doing because we’ll have a very different climate, but it’ll be very, very expensive.” — Al Jazeera

External source

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

We need to ask awkward questions about our schools

Ignore the language used in brochures and on open days and be vigilant about the details

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Ramaphosa enters the fray in fight between Gordhan and Mkhwebane

The president said his court case is “unfortunate” and a “measure of last resort”

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.