Climate change in 2018, will it get worse?
There is a pub in York city centre, just near the ancient city walls, called The Kings Arms. It’s also known locally and nationally as ‘The pub that floods’ after numerous appearances on the news whenever the River Ouse bursts its banks.
Inside the pub is a wall with flood levels marked to show how high each of the famous floods of the past have made it through the first floor of the building. The record of flood levels goes all the way back to the early 19th century but, perhaps most strikingly, the highest levels ever recorded in the centuries-old pub occurred just two and a half years ago in 2015.
The floods that struck across the city centre made national news as Chinook helicopters were brought in from the army in order to evacuate elderly and vulnerable residents as the waters actually went over the top of the windows of the pub for the first time.
Perhaps it’s simply a coincidence that these floods happened so recently or perhaps it’s part of a trend across the globe that is seeing increasingly frequent extreme weather.
In 2017 both Sydney and Brisbane experienced their hottest summers on record. Australia as a whole experienced its warmest winter daytime temperatures on record. There was also flooding across Asia, famine and drought.
The question this raises is: Are things going to get worse in 2018? Quite possibly.
Just this week Paris has seen extreme flooding on the River Seine which has peaked at about four metres above its normal water level for the time of year. The floods have been blamed on weeks of relentless rain, with the surrounding terrain around Paris simply unable to cope with the volume of water falling on it. Floods happen, of course, and extreme weather isn’t anything new. The concerning thing for those with an eye on climate change is the regularity with which this extreme weather now appears to be occurring. In Paris, for example, the last time that the river reached these levels was 1910, but the river has now exceeded those levels twice in 2 years.
In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, President Donald Trump stated: “polar ice caps were supposed to be gone by now,” but instead they’re “breaking records.”
“The ice caps were going to melt,” he said, “they were going to be gone by now. But now they’re setting records. They’re at a record levels.”
The remarks led to bafflement in the scientific community, with roughly nobody able to back up his claims. Asked if he thinks that climate change is happening, Trump said, “There is a cooling, and there’s a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. Right? That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place.”
In an article covering the comments, Huffington Post pointed out that climate change, according to NASA, refers to “a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels.” The increasing average temperature of the Earth ― that is, global warming ― is one key result. Others are rising sea levels and a growing trend toward extreme weather and weather anomalies linked to that.
It also notes that 2017 was the world’s second hottest on record and that the oceans reached their warmest ever recorded temperatures.
Another notable climate disaster is the water crisis currently happening in Cape Town, South Africa. After years of drought the city is rapidly running out of water and, despite putting restrictions in place, is estimated to actually run dry in less than three months.
The city’s authorities are referring to the day that the water runs out as “Day Zero” and it’s currently estimated to happen on April 12th.
Cape Town, with a population of nearly 4 million, is facing the very real prospect of having to hand out emergency water to its residents.
From Feb. 1, Cape Town has told residents they can use no more than 13.2 gallons of drinking water a day in an effort to avoid "Day Zero." To put that in perspective, the average American uses an estimated 80 and 100 gallons a day, according to research.
The emergency plans currently in place would see hospitals and schools continue to have piped fresh water but the vast majority of the city would be switched off, with the residents forced to queue for water at collection points which are going to be policed by the army to avoid civil unrest.
Residents have already had strict restrictions in place for the water use for months in an attempt to delay the inevitable, but things are now starting to look grim.
In one of the world’s marquee cities it seems ludicrous to imagine that due to lack of rainfall the entire city may run dry by the summer but it now seems inevitable. If such a thing can happen in a relatively wealthy area such as Cape Town, we may start to see more regular occurrences across the world’s most famous cities.
When we talk about the results of climate change, many imagine baking hot summer heat which destroys the life around it but the much more frequent examples of climate change are extreme weather. With rising sea levels comes more water in the atmosphere and with more water in the atmosphere comes much more severe rain. When rain falls in the volumes it has in Paris and York, we begin to see the results as the surrounding countryside fails to absorb the increased rainfall and it eventually leads to rivers bursting their banks into the streets around them.
We can never be truly sure about what weather we might see in the next 12 months but if the evidence so far is anything to go by we may well begin to see an acceleration of the conditions across the globe which blighted 2017.