The fallout from climate change demands urgent action

The effects of climate change have been evident for some years. Now, across the world, they are evident almost every month, in countries rich and poor, those acting aggressively on climate change and those doing little.

From China to Europe to North America, the world’s major economies are being disrupted by unprecedented droughts, heat waves, wildfires and floods.

A car negotiates a flooded section of road, as torrential rain and thunderstorms battered London this month.Credit:Getty

The great rivers of Europe are becoming rare. The French Loire is so shallow in places that people can cross from side to side on the sandy bottom of the river. The ancient inscriptions on the banks of the Elbe, Danube and Rhine that marked the low water point during the record droughts of the Middle Ages are now high and dry.

In the southwestern United States, hundreds of square miles of the Hoover Dam, which supplies water to 100 million people, have been reduced to muddy puddles.

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China had to issue a national drought alert after large parts of the country in the Yangtze River basin experienced 31 straight days of extreme heat. In the teeming metropolis of Chongqing (31 million inhabitants), the temperature reached 45 degrees, a national record outside the desert region of Xinjiang.

Even Britain, once blessed (or cursed) with a wet and mild climate, has recently experienced extremes of drought, wildfires, flash floods and, last month, its first official day above 40 degrees.

Meanwhile, there is a growing awareness that climate change is not just affecting the environment, but also our economies and livelihoods, often in the most immediate and prosaic ways.

The UK heatwave melted the airport’s runways and crippled its rail network as tracks twisted, stranding thousands of commuters. Barges on the German Rhine that deliver large quantities of coal and raw materials for steel and chemical plants carry 25% of their normal loads to avoid running aground in unusually shallow water.

About Timothy Cheatham

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