A few days back I read one post about a wind energy project where some people were naming climate change as a «drama» rather than a reality, straining to halt the development of renewable energy projects across Europe. Besides, I saw many countries experiencing heavy storms, forest fires and floods. I took a little time out of my day to think about it and realised that I should do a little research on the adverse consequences of climate change, which is making us pay a huge cost in terms of lives and infrastructure.
The rise in global temperatures has recently led to abnormal changes in weather patterns in different parts of the world. The climate change that we are facing now is largely caused by human activities resulting in heavy rainfalls, floods and cyclones. Research shows that heavy rains and floods have experienced a dramatic rise over the last decade as high as 50%. In 2018, The European Academics Advisory Panel found that extreme events and floods are occurring four times more than in 1980 .
Currently, strong rains in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands caused rivers to burst their banks and wash away buildings, where 1,300 people remained missing. This devastation occurred due to the severe weather just days after the European Union shared new laws to phase-out fossil fuels over the next nine years, as part of plans to make the 27-country bloc carbon-neutral by 2050.
Experts say the extreme events are a direct consequence of the climate crisis that was predicted earlier in the 19th century. The increase in global temperatures elevates the probability of storms, rising sea-levels and accumulating significant moisture in air which increases the intensity of floods. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the coastal megacities of the world will be exposed to economic losses 166 times more by 2050 due to extreme floods . The frequency and intensity of floods that we are observing today is caused by several factors. For instance, the unsustainable development results in degradation of soils and ecosystem which in result makes it hard for lands to absorb the waters poured from heavy rains. This situation is further exacerbated by poor flood planning and management posing a significant threat to the communities living in the coastal regions, from sea-level rise and storm surges.
Climate change has an impact on floods. As the earth warms, the air can hold 7% more water vapour for every one-degree Celsius increase in temperature. When this air cools down rapidly, water vapour turns into droplets, which join together to form heavy rainfall . Thus, heavy rainfall over a short period of time can result in flash floods. On the other hand, moderate rainfall over several days can overflow the rivers and dams. In addition, the global warming effect is also melting the polar ice caps since they seem to be less resistant to the warming temperatures, risking the coastal towns and cities. In 2017, scientists found that Antarctica glaciers are not as stable as they had long assumed. Antarctica has lost about 3 trillion tonnes of ice in the last 25 years which caused global seas to rise by 8mm . With the future projections, it is expected that sea levels could rise as much as 5 meters.
With all the research cited above, there is plenty of other evidence from scientists and researchers clearly justifying how important it is to tackle climate change now before it is too late. Climate change does not take one’s side be it oil and gas or renewable energy industry, the consequences would be alarming for everyone living on the earth. In this regard, the use of offshore renewable energy sources, mainly offshore wind, could be an edge to achieve climate neutrality until 2050.
The Paris Climate Agreement embarked on a global framework to prevent adverse climate change by limiting global temperatures to well below 2°C with an effective collaboration between Europe and its Member States. This will be a huge step forward in achieving net zero carbon targets and further developing a sustainable future.
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Mazhar Ali is an offshore renewable energy engineer. He hold an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master of Science in Offshore Renewable Energy from University of Strathclyde, University of the Basque Country and Ecole Centrale de Nantes.