The summer of 2022 is something. It has sustained drought across the globe, led to energy shortages and has pushed almost a quarter of the world towards severe food insecurity. The US state of California has been suffering from droughts for the past two decades, forcing the state to implement state-wide restrictions on water use. But other parts of the world are not behind. In many European and Asian states, climate induced calamities are affecting agriculture, energy and transport. States like the UK do not necessarily have the infrastructure to deal with extreme weather, which can lead to flooding and increased heat. The summer’s widespread drought presents a glimpse of our collective climate future.
States like China are getting creative and going for approaches like cloud seeding to protect its agriculture, but it does not prevent them from witnessing extreme heat waves in the future. This means more wildfires, increased challenges for agriculture and more famine, especially in poor countries like Pakistan.
The Thal region of Punjab has been experiencing dry weather and drought for 10 years despite it being located between three rivers. Droughts are man made. They are not unprecedented events. They have happened throughout history and have contributed to the loss of millions of lives. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the US caused by the Great Depression led to crop failure, poverty and displacement in Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.
Presently, the droughts are plaguing North America, Horn of Africa, the UK, China and wider Europe. The drought in these regions is not a result of an economic hiccup, but is climate induced. In the Horn of Africa, low rainfall has caused the worst drought in 40 years for the region. Despite the area facing occasional droughts, the communities did not pay much heed to the looming drought. In 2020 and 2021, the fall rainy season lasted from October to December, and was much drier than usual. In 2021 the gu which used to last from October-December was much drier than normal.
In Hubei and Chongqing, China, temperatures have reached 113 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit this past week. The extreme heat has dried up the longest river, Yangtze River, in China. It has caused extensive damage to crops, and limited access to drinking water in the Hubei province. The climate impact of cloud seeding is also going to lead to toxic build up from silver iodide and affect hydrological patterns.
Temperatures in the UK have gone up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and about 109 degrees in France, Spain and Portugal. Wildfires are also consuming several parts of European states. Rivers in Italy and Germany have diminished to an extent that they are exposing battleships and bombs sunk during WWII.
What does the future hold?
NGOs and Governments are trying to come up with policies for efficiently coping with drought, famine, energy cuts, water shortages and other crises. The world has come far from taking aggressive action to mitigate climate change. Due to Russia’s embargo on energy exports has once again turned Europe to using coal power.
The governments need to focus on long term solutions not quick ones like cloud seeding. We have to focus on long term solutions and take strides at making clean energy. The summer droughts are an indication that there is no time to waste.
Written by Amna Sheikh