Turkish climate scientist warns extreme weather events will become more violent, more frequent, more widespread in future…
With the average temperature of Earth rising every year, there could be a spike in extreme weather conditions worldwide.
Numerous studies indicate the increasing number of floods, storms, droughts and extreme weather conditions as the most striking outcomes of the global rise in temperatures.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), disasters resulting from climate have cost 115 lives a day on average in the last 50 years, accompanied by $202 million of damage every day.
A report by the WMO released in 2021 showed that a total of 11,072 disasters took place between the years 1970 and 2019.
Floods corresponded to 44%, almost half, of all disasters in the 50-year time period. They were followed by storms with 35%. Droughts and landslides accounted for 6% each. Extreme temperatures constituted 5% of the disasters and wildfires 4%.
A report in which the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction compared the data of number of disasters that took place between 2000 and 2019 with those of the previous 20-year-period shows that the number of disasters has increased twofold.
‘Extreme weather events to become more severe, more frequent and more widespread’
Levent Kurnaz, manager of the Center for Climate Change and Policy Studies at the Istanbul-based Bogazici University, evaluated the impact of climate change on extreme weather events for Anadolu Agency.
Kurnaz said extreme weather events could take place more severely, more frequently and affect wider regions.
“For instance, if we are talking about drought, it will be seen in a wider area, will be more severe than before, that is to say, the period with zero rainfall lasts longer, and thirdly, it grows more frequent.”
Noting that such is the case for all disasters, he went on to say: “Let’s say in the past there was a period of 15 days without rainfall in a year. This increases to 30 days and is observed twice a year. … The same applies to rainfall and storms as well.”
1.5 degrees of warming ‘wishful thinking’
As many as 192 countries around the world committed to limit the global warming of the planet by 1.5 degree Celsius through the Paris Agreement signed in 2015 (COP21).
Referring to this commitment, Kurnaz said: “To begin with, it is wishful thinking for us to achieve the 1.5 degrees target. As humanity, we only have the change to achieve 2.4 to 2.7 degrees at best.”
He underlined that climate action should be at the top of the world agenda and said the planet is being dragged into a catastrophe because daily issues are prioritized.
“We do not perceive climate crisis as the primary problem. Economy, national security, livelihood, agriculture come first… Then comes climate change, and climate change will not respond well, which means we can expect more disasters to come,” he said.
Disasters beyond our imagination
Kurnaz stated that disasters such as floods, wildfires and drought are already known to humans, and said it is an advantage for humankind to know when such disasters can unfold, as well as the means to cope with them.
Recalling the mucilage (sea snot) that hit the coast of the Sea of Marmara last summer, Kurnaz said in 10 years we could face numerous such phenomena that are beyond our imagination for now. “If we were having this conversation one year ago, most of us would not have heard of mucilage,” he continued. “The warming, which is around 1.2 to 1.3 degrees now, reaches 2.4 to 2.7 degrees, … we will start witnessing phenomena that we do not know anything about, just as the case with mucilage.”
He said these phenomena may involve a disease spread by a type of mosquito that is unknown to humans, a pest or locust swarms.
Evaluating the existing scenarios as “optimistic”, Kurnaz said scientific scenarios are generated based on the assumption that all countries comply with the 2030 and 2050 emission pledges as well as taking other necessary measures.
“If everyone in the world keeps their promises, global warming can be between 2.4 and 2.7 degrees. Unless these promises are not kept, the warming will increase from 2.7 to 3, maybe 3.5, or 4 degrees,” he added.
Another reason of concern lies under the permafrost land, that is, permanently frozen soil, in the Siberia region in Russia, Kurnaz recalled. He explained that massive amounts of methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, can leak into the atmosphere in case the permafrost starts to thaw due to the warming climate.
“We are not talking about methane that can be extracted from a well, but methane that is struck only a few meters down from the ground. … If the methane here starts to leak into the atmosphere, then the warming will not be limited with 2.4-2.7 degrees but may reach as many as 5-8 degrees or maybe more,” Kurnaz said.
By Dilan Pamuk,