March 2023

Sustainable Insights

Climate Change and 2022, the Year of Extremes

I believe the seriousness of climate change is yet to sink in for many of us. Last month, we saw the worst disaster hit Turkey and Syria, where four consecutive earthquakes left 54,000 plus (as of March 6th) and counting dead. The ancient historical cities of Antakya in Turkey and Aleppo in Syria are no more. What was once a bustling town was brought to its feet in no time, owing to the effects of climate change. Not just this, but Turkey also was a victim of the recent flash floods that left 15 dead. This is a stark reminder that the effects of global warming are not just limited to rising temperatures and extreme weather patterns. And anything can happen at anytime. Are you prepared to face the consequences?

Climate change has amplified weather extremes across the globe, smashing temperature records, sinking river levels to historic lows, and raising rainfall to devastating heights. As a result of climate change, in 2022, natural disasters will be more common, costing more and hurting more people on average. Worldwide, 2022 was marked by an abundance of devastating natural disasters, including floods, tornadoes, cyclones, wildfires, and earthquakes.

2022 also saw one of the largest man-made crises in recent times: the Russia-Ukraine conflict, whereby there was an intensifying energy war that led to the reemergence of fossil fuel demand. Besides that, it was also the fifth warmest year in the history of mankind. There were 10 climate-fueled extreme weather events that caused more than $3 billion worth of damage each.

Christian Aid CEO, Patrick Watt, said: “Having ten separate climate disasters in the last year that each cost more than $3 billion points to the financial cost of inaction on the climate crisis. But behind the dollar figures lie millions of stories of human loss and suffering. Without major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, this human and financial toll will only increase.” The past nine years have been the warmest years since modern record-keeping began in 1880. This means Earth in 2022 was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 1.11 degrees Celsius) warmer than the late 19th century average.

The world is far off course when it comes to achieving climate goals, said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), in his first comments as President-Designate for this year’s COP28 summit. “The world is playing catchup when it comes to the key Paris goal of holding global temperatures down to 1.5 degrees,” he said. “And the hard reality is that in order to achieve this goal, global emissions must fall 43% by 2030. To add to that challenge, we must decrease emissions at a time of continued economic uncertainty, heightened geopolitical tensions, and increasing pressure on energy.”

Global warming is undoubtedly a factor, but just how the increasing extremes—heat waves, droughts, and floods—are related can be bewildering to the public and policymakers.

“The reason for the warming trend is that human activities continue to pump enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the long-term planetary impacts will also continue,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of GISS, NASA’s leading centre for climate modelling.

Human-driven greenhouse gas emissions have rebounded following a short-lived dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, NASA scientists, as well as international scientists, determined carbon dioxide emissions were the highest on record in 2022. NASA also identified some super-emitters of methane – another powerful greenhouse gas – using the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation instrument that launched to the International Space Station last year.

Correlation between climate change and extreme weather

Climate change is never the sole cause of an extreme weather event, but it can sometimes be a significant contributing factor, according to specialists. Rising global average temperatures are associated with widespread changes in weather patterns. Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with
human-induced climate change.

“An event is the result of many drivers. There are many factors that influence and may favor an extreme event,” said Nikos Christidis, a senior scientist at Britain’s Met Office.

Source: Wildfires climate change/

Extreme events happen when climate change and natural weather variability come together and may be influenced by other geographical factors, such as whether nearby rivers and lakes are empty enough to absorb water from heavy rains. Higher temperatures also boost evaporation, which dries out the soil in summer, intensifying the drought in many areas. Similarly, the increase in snowfall during winter storms may be linked to climate change since there is more moisture in the warmer atmosphere. So when the temperatures are below freezing, snowfall can break records.

“The only way you can say if something is changing due to climate change is to say whether the odds of that really bad day are changing,” said van Aalst. “There’s always an element of bad luck, but the chances of bad luck are increasing—quite rapidly in some cases.” With more people living in cities—many of them very vulnerable to floods, heatwaves, storms, and other risks—the combination of strengthening climate change and growing populations in harm’s way needs more attention, he said.

How to reduce the impact

How countries grow and the investments they make to meet the energy, food, and water needs of an expanding population can fuel climate change, raising risks worldwide, or contribute to solutions.

According to a World Bank study (link), the most vital thing is to put a price on carbon.

Carbon pricing systems, such as emissions trading systems that cap emissions or carbon taxes that charge per ton, send a long-term signal to companies by creating an incentive to reduce polluting behaviors and to invest in cleaner energy choices and low-carbon innovation.

Source: Cimate change/

Secondly, end fossil fuel subsidies and increase the use of renewable energy. Renewable energy, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly affordable as prices fall. In many countries, developing utility-scale renewable energy is now cheaper than or on par with fossil fuel plants. Stop the shopping spree. Inconsumable goods tend to plague our spaces and build up over time. Dress sustainably and shop sustainably by using a reusable bag when you can, skipping packaging, and investing in quality products that last.

Source: Climate change & environmental pollution, piyaset/

And my personal advice is to cut meat consumption or totally avoid it. Factory farming, especially of red meat, contributes greatly to climate change by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, adding toxins to our environment, and harming nutrients in our land.

Join hands to fight the change

The abnormal change in the weather pattern is dangerous and unpredictable. Despite the best technologies in hand, human survival seems bleak if climate change is not tackled at the earliest. Every small step counts.

The science on climate change is clear. There is no question that these abnormal changes result from global warming due to an increased greenhouse effect caused by the vast amounts of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by human activities.

Source: Climate change concept/

In response to this, an international climate regime has developed. Governments, businesses, research bodies, civil society, and more are working together to build the science and knowledge that allow us to tackle the causes and threats of climate change. The last UN climate talks, held in Egypt in November, ended with a landmark deal to create a “loss and damage” fund to cover the costs that developing countries face from climate-linked natural disasters and slower impacts like sea level rise.

The efforts of the UAE are particularly noteworthy: controlling emissions, reducing flare-ups of natural gas, increasing energy efficiency, and undertaking many other steps. The UAE’s Net Zero 2050 strategic initiative aligns with the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to prepare long-term strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.