Europe floods: A summer of despair

Our world is changing. It is getting warmer and weather events are becoming more extreme. And for those who doubt the science of climate change, then they need look no farther than at the devastation across much of northwestern Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Severe summer thunderstorms — a month’s rain fell in a little over 12 hours, inundating flood systems, flooding entire towns and villages, submerging communities and simply washing away defences that had been in place for decades. And so far, close to 200 people are dead, many more missing and people across the region simply aghast at the loss of life and property.

Nothing like this has happened before, officials say, and nothing could have prepared them for the powerful and destructive deluge. But the reality now is that such extreme weather events will become the norm as our planet heats up because of our dependence of fossil fuels and releasing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into our planet’s atmosphere.

As our planet heats up, air becomes warmer. And warm air traps moisture that has to fall. Given that the Gulf Stream’s normal flow patterns have been disrupted and diverted this summer, a vicious cycle of warm air centred over the region — meaning it had nowhere to go but down — washing away homes and houses, people and property.

In the southern Mediterranean, temperatures are soaring to record levels. To the east, in Siberia, temperatures at all-time highs, with much of the vast region burning under dozens of forest fires. In the coming days, the northwestern US states and western Canada will endure their fourth crushing heatwave in five weeks. Together, all of these events are connected by the undeniable reality of climate change.

For decades we have been warned that we must act. For decades, nations have ignored their warnings. And now, the peril is real. We are losing the ability to predict the real effects of our weather events as they become more severe, extreme and prolonged. And our traditional methods of living, our flood and storm management techniques, our civil engineering, cannot cope.

If ever there was a time to act on climate change, it is now. The clock has run down, the sand has fallen to the bottom of the hourglass. And the grains of mistruths offered by climate deniers are clear for all to see. We need to cut our carbon emissions. We need agreed targets. We have to act. And it has to happen now.



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