The floods in Burma are the latest in a long list of natural disasters reported the news.The Tsunami in Thaliand in 2004 and floods in New Orleans and Bangladesh in 2005 have claimed thousands of lives and destroyed millions of homes. Scientists argue that the increasing rate of extreme weather, including cyclones, hurricanes and earthquakes is directly related to the rate of climate change. But haven’t we always had storms and earthquakes? How can climate change be the cause? Isn’t global warming making the world warmer?
Confusing isn’t it! It’s tempting to think global warming is a good thing and welcome the warm weather especially in the UK when sunshine seems so rare. Unfortunately, as James Bruges points out in ‘What about China?’ that kind of thinking isn’t very realistic – not even in the short term.
Remember last summer – we all thought it would be long and hot but in fact it was pretty murky for the most part apart from a burst of intense heat wave. Meanwhile Europe and the US had catastrophic fires that devastated homes and crops. There’s no doubt the world is warming up but that doesn’t mean picnics in the park and a better tan. If no action is taken the greenhouse effect could lead to a rise in average global temperatures of between 1.5-4.5 degrees C. Such increases will make the world hotter than it has been for more than 100,000 years.
That means more bad weather; storms and hurricanes become more frequent and stronger as oceans heat up causing more water to evaporate. Continental heartlands dry out more in summer causing massive droughts and crop failure and floods increase as sea levels rise (currently at a rate of 1 to 2mm each year) due to expansion of the top layer of the oceans as the polar ice caps melt.
Not a pretty picture is it? So what can you do? Being well informed is the first step; If you want to learn more, the open university has a fantastic website with detailed information about various climate change topics.