Climate change is imminent in every corner of world, why?

Posted on : 2021-07-19 18:11 KST Modified on : 2021-07-19 18:11 KST
Experts say that it is time to realize that climate crisis is not something facing us in the distant future but a global survival issue that needs to be grappled with here and now
People evacuate in rubber rafts after the Meuse River flooded Thursday in Liege, Belgium. (Yonhap News)
People evacuate in rubber rafts after the Meuse River flooded Thursday in Liege, Belgium. (Yonhap News)

In a vast river of mud, the “flood of the millennium” caused by torrential rains in Western Europe washed away the robust systems that have supported the advanced economies of the West since the post-WWII era.

The disaster safety standards based on worst-case scenarios, and the response systems and facilities based on them, have proven to be outdated 20th-century relics in the face of the reality of climate change.

It isn’t just Europe. Regions such as North America, Siberia, and Northeast Asia have been experiencing record heat waves, torrential rains, flooding, and wildfires all at once this summer.

Stressing that the climate crisis does not distinguish between developed and developing countries, experts warned that it is time to realize that crisis is not something facing us in the distant future but a global survival issue that needs to be grappled with here and now.

As of Sunday, the death toll in the torrential rains and flooding in Western Europe on Wednesday and Thursday stood at nearly 200. The mounting casualties have come from Germany, a country considered a world leader when it comes to disaster safety management.

Meanwhile, the US and Canada have been suffering through unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires. The western Canadian community of Lytton, British Columbia, saw temperatures soar to 49.6°C (121.28 degrees Fahrenheit) on June 30. The Death Valley region of California hit an official temperature of 54.4°C (129.92 degrees Fahrenheit) on July 11; unofficial measurements put it as high as 56.7°C (134.06 degrees Fahrenheit).

Wildfires are an annual occurrence in the western US, but the murderous heat waves have sent them spreading in at least 70 different places. In southeastern Oregon, a fire cloud reaching 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in the sky was formed by a pillar of smoke mixed with ash from a massive wildfire.

Experts in Korea and overseas have pointed to greenhouse gas-driven climate change as a reason for the extreme weather phenomena, which have been growing in intensity all over the world.

“In North America, there was a heatwave due to stagnant high pressure, while Western Europe experienced torrential rains due to stagnant low pressure,” said Lee Hyun-soo, head of the climate prediction division at the Korea Meteorological Administration.

“There are lots of different reasons for atmospheric stagnation, but when long periods of stagnation occur, or stagnation takes place in reasons where there’s no history of similar cases, we need to consider a linkage with climate change,” he said.

Yeh Sang-wook, a marine science and convergence engineering professor at Hanyang University, said, “When we have atmospheric stagnation, it should only last for a day or two.”

“When it does last for a long time like we’ve seen, that’s something that only happens when there’s some external factor causing it to remain in place,” he added.

“In the past, the only places suffering direct damage from climate change were known to be the polar regions [the Arctic and Antarctic]. Now we’re seeing a situation where even the middle-latitude regions [where most of the major cities are located] could be affected by global warming from a long-term perspective,” he said.

The European Centre for Medium‑Range Weather Forecasts told the British newspaper The Guardian that “with climate change, we do expect all hydro-meteorological extremes to become more extreme.

Climate activists stressed the need to recognize that climate change is a present-day phenomenon rather than something that awaits us in the future.

“The climate crisis is confronting us with immediate disaster situations, yet countries and companies remain focused on ‘growth,’” said Hwang In-cheol, president of Climate Crisis Emergency Action.

“We need to accept the warnings that nature is sending us now as a reality,” he said.

On Wednesday, the European Commission announced a climate crisis response plan that imposes rigorous greenhouse gas reduction obligations on its member nations and businesses both inside and outside the region.

But European environmental groups are calling for even stronger measures, contending that the existing ones are inadequate to fend off the imminent crisis.

By Kim Min-je, staff reporter

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