Top Climate Events of 2021
This was the year I noticed scientists began using new language about climate change. Rather than offer dire warnings about how hot the planet was going to be in a decade or two, they began to talk about adapting to a hotter more volatile environment now. I began to hear more about assimilation than mitigation. The effect of climate change is already upon us. The latest scientific consensus is the earth is on track to warm 2.4 degrees Celsus over pre-industrial temperatures, far above the 1.5 degree threshold scientists say we should stay under. The change in language was a result of events on the ground, air and water. Extreme weather events were more numerous, costly and devastating than in human memory or recorded history. Here are the Top Ten Climate Events in 2021
10. It’s Raining in Greenland
Do you remember the song It Never Rains in Southern California? Well, the song should have been It Has Never Ever Rained in Greenland, …..until this year. Why has it never rained at the summit of Greenland? Because it was too cold, the temperature never dropped below freezing. But it did this year. Precipitation as rain dumped 7 billion gallons of water on the summit. And by the year 2060 it is expected to rain more on the summit than snow.
9. Texas Froze Over
When you think of Texas you think of barbecue, conservatism and heat. Lots of heat. Well, in 2021 Texas froze over. It’s an example of how climate change is not solely about the earth growing hotter, It is about weather patterns that are being altered, producing extreme and unusual events. In February, Texas experienced a deep freeze leaving 4 million people without power and killing between 200 and 1000 people, depending on who’s counting. The storm cost costs the state $130 billion in damage and left Texas worried more about the weather than the barbecue.
8. Fatal Flood in Three Continents
In Germany and Belgium torrential rainfall led to flash flooding and 200 deaths. During the same mid-July period, floods in China struck Henan province killing more than 300 people. Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of 12 million people, was another hard-hit area. In the United States, 15 inches of rain fell over middle Tennessee in a 6 hour period, causing flash flooding, the deaths of at least 18 people, and the destruction of 280 homes.
7. U.S. Rejoins Paris Climate Agreement
While President Biden’s executive order in January rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement was not an extreme weather event, it was nonetheless, a crucial event in the global response to climate change. The departure of the Paris Climate Agreement under the Trump administration undermined the U.S. credibility as a leader in this global crisis. While many observers felt the return was an inadequate gesture for the magnitude of change necessary, it was a crucial step to get back on track to meaningful climate mitigation efforts.
6. United Nations: “Code Red”
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres issued a “Code Red” in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a summary on the state of climate research. The August report concluded it is “unequivocal” that humans are causing climate change and that the consequences are widespread and harmful to all forms of life on earth.
5. United Nations COP26 in Glasgow
The United National COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Scotland led to an agreement signed by 200 nations that included, for the first time, recognizing the detrimental impact of burning fossil fuels on the environment. Greta Thunberg, global climate activist, called it more “blah, blah, blah” by politicians who only pretended to care. Final results were disappointing to most, but inched forward in recognizing the human-induced climate crisis facing the globe.
4. Hurricane Ida
I was in New York City attending the U.S. Open Tennis Championships just days after category four Hurricane Ida devastated Mississippi and Louisiana. Although NYC was 1300 miles from the entrance of Ida onto the mainland, it still brought the city to a crawl, flooding subways and shutting down many underground lines. Ida was the epitome of storms of the future which drop more rain, move slower and wreak more havoc on populated areas.
3. Kentucky Tornado
The tornado that ripped through 220 miles of Kentucy and parts of seven other states was the longest ground-touching tornado in the history of the United States. Mayfield, Kentucky was essentially wiped off the face of the map. Estimated deaths from the tornados reached close to 100 people. December is not supposed to be a time for severe tornados anywhere in the country, but we are no longer living in normal times.
2. Canadian Town Burns to the Ground
This summer something unusual, even incomprehensible happened. The hottest recorded temperature above 45 degrees latitude happened in British Columbia, Canada. The 121 degree temperature in Lytton, Canada was 8 degrees hotter than the previous record and hotter than any recorded temperature in Europe or South America. It was so hot the town literally burned down completely in 15 minutes after what fire experts believe was a spark that ignited from a passing train.
1. It Never Rains in Southern California?
Let me return to our theme song for this article, It Never Rains in Southern California. Perhaps it does rain some, but the drought throughout the western U.S. is leading to massive water shortages, record heat and unrelenting wildfires. By August of this year, 95% of the west was officially under drought conditions. California is in the midst of a multi-year drought that is the worst in the state’s 121 year old history. The federal government has declared a water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time ever.
All of these events are significant standing on the own. Together they are compelling evidence that manmade induced climate change is already here and creating extreme weather events. These events are requiring us to spend unbudgeted funds on mitigation and recovery efforts around the world. Perhaps it would be more prudent if we were to preempt these events by investing in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to take more seriously the effects of climate change on our planet.