Following the record-breaking heatwaves experienced across the globe in July and August, many are now experiencing extreme flooding. This change from one extreme to the other is being called ‘climate whiplash’ by experts.
The summer heat waves were already labeled climate disasters by many. Given their impact on crop production, cargo transportation, and power plants, it’s not a surprise that this extreme heat was seen by many as a bad sign of what is to come for the planet.
Few, however, expected more to come this soon.
Pakistan faces extreme flooding
The droughts have given way to extreme flooding across many parts of the world. Pakistan is one place particularly affected by the flooding. Facing months of an unusually heavy monsoon season, Pakistan has been hit by a crisis.
At least 1,000 people have died from the flooding, many of whom are children. The chaos and the floods have reigned, and the country has almost been at a standstill.
???: Pakistani floods will likely reshape global ag markets and the regional security order.— Nathan Carson (@ndcarson) September 4, 2022
Flooding in Pakistan is truly biblical.1/3 of the country is underwater. 33 million – 15% of the population – are impacted.
It also harms production of wheat, rice, and cotton. 1/n pic.twitter.com/qXJBDuIWDH
Pakistan’s federal minister for climate change, Sherry Rehman, had this to say of the crisis:
‘One-third of Pakistan is underwater—33 million are affected. Please tell me how that is not catastrophic. That is the size of a small country.’
Video – Pakistan’s Flooding is an Overwhelming Climate Change and Humanitarian Crisis:— Tom Suozzi (@RepTomSuozzi) September 4, 2022
News reports can’t possibly portray the incredible devastation that I saw first hand today in the Pakistan. ting people and unsafe water is causing dysentery. (1/5) pic.twitter.com/KcQjyEbB0c
China hit by flash flooding
Nearby, in western China, flash floods have been sowing disaster. The floods have caused 100,000 people to evacuate and have caused the deaths of more than a dozen people.
However, this extreme flooding has been such a shock because China just a few weeks earlier faced what historians called the worst heatwave ever recorded. No wonder experts are calling it climate whiplash.
Europe and the US face climate whiplash
This extremity of climate whiplash has been felt particularly badly in Asia, but Europe has also been hit.
New images this morning from the devastating flooding in Hazard, KY. You can see the North Fork Kentucky River at major flood stage levels— Colleen Peterson (@wxColleen) July 29, 2022
Photos by Frances Everage, in Hazard pic.twitter.com/lh65XVepsY
After the heat was so intense that the Danube dried up, torrential rain was felt across Europe. In the US, climate whiplash has happened across the country at the same time. While the Kentucky river swelled so intensely, many Appalachian towns were left in ruins, and the Colorado river became so low that many western American households faced water cuts.
What is climate whiplash doing to the economy?
A new study by GHD found that water-related disasters (for example, droughts and floods) could cost the global economy $5.6 trillion in GDP between 2022 and 2050.
Have u looked at #climate news lately? Europe, China & US: hottest summers ever. Arctic glaciers shrunk a great deal. Pak’s Biblical flooding; India’s hottest March. Can’t tackle #ClimateCrisis w/out fundamentally rethinking how we produce & consume goods. 1/2— Zia Haq (@ziahaq) September 10, 2022
To put this into perspective, between 1970 and 2021, the total amount of damage from all-natural disasters, not just those related to water, was $3.64 trillion.
Yet now, that number is likely not even to reach just what the US expects to lose in the next 30 years.
What can we do in the face of climate disasters?
Many have linked climate whiplash to the worsening state of climate change.
Patrick Brown, a scientist with the Breakthrough Institute, had this to say about the situation:
“There’s no denying that climate change makes it so it can rain more, and it rains more because there’s more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. But it can’t account for something like nine times as much as normal. Most of that is random variability in weather that you get no matter what.”
Things are looking dangerous for people all around the planet. Some are going to seemingly extreme lengths to fight against it—but with the rising number of climate disasters, are these moves really so extreme anymore?