Up in smoke: Agricultural interests emboldened by President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environment stances are suspected to be behind hundreds of fires that blazed across the Brazilian Amazon | Photo: Greenpeace

Amazon fires: Brazil govt says situation returning to normal, but experts warn ‘the worst is yet to come’

Brazilian Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles may have blamed ‘dry weather, wind and heat’ for the Amazon forest fires, experts, however, have said the reason for the spike, which has caused international concern, is a recent rise in deforestation thanks to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s pro-development policies. The main evidence for this theory: The fires are surging ahead in a pattern typical of forest clearing.

While Bolsonaro claimed the ‘situation was returning to normal’ and his foreign minister assured the world that his country is successfully extinguishing the fires, Tasso Azevedo, a forest engineer and environmentalist who coordinates the deforestation monitoring group MapBiomas, claimed the ‘worst of the fires were yet to come’ because the country’s annual burning season was yet to play out fully. The Brazilian Amazon lost 1,114.8 sqkm of forest land in the first 26 days of August. Apart from the visible damage, there is an invisible menace that has risen from the fires, which may have far-reaching impacts. Nasa released data and a graphic showing a large ‘plume’ of carbon monoxide rising from the fires, which could potentially impact air quality. 

What is even more concerning, however, that it is not just Brazil, forest fires are burning elsewhere in the world as well at an intensity rarely seen before and spreading to areas that were previously untouched by blazes. For example, the Siberian forest, which has lost 6 million acres since July and in Alaska, more than 2.5 million acres of tundra and the snow forest has been lost to fires, with scientists pointing to climate change, which may be exacerbating the danger.

Apocalypse now: Rising seas, warming oceans will unleash misery in coming years, says draft UN report

Our oceans may soon turn from friend to foe if emission levels in the atmosphere are not brought under control, says a draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Special Report”, obtained by AFP. The transition has already begun, according to the report, which says the world should expect a decline in fish stock, a hundred-fold or more increase in damage from superstorms, and the displacement of millions because of the rising seas.  

The worst-affected will be small island nations, coastal communities and even the world’s largest economies such as the US, China, the EU and India, the report said. According to the report, India’s summer monsoon has already weakened significantly since 1950, most probably because of the Indian Ocean heating up. This vulnerability to the rising seas could result in millions getting displaced over the decades, which forces us to ask the question, where are they all going to go?

IPCC, however, has issued its own statement following the leak of the draft clarifying that the report is still in draft stage and is pending final approvals. The statement added that IPCC experts will consider the report from September 20 to 23, 2019 in Monaco, where they will examine the Summary for Policymakers of the report line by line.

Hurricane Dorian hits US, weathermen predict more major storms in coming months

The second-strongest Atlantic Hurricane – category five Dorian – hit the Bahamas on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, killing at least five people and leaving countless homeless . Weathermen predict the storm will move towards Florida this week. The US states of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency. US president Donald Trump created confusion about Hurricane Dorian, repeatedly wrongly claiming that Alabama was set to be hit by the storm and that he had “never even heard of a category 5 storm”.

Dorian hits the US at the peak of its hurricane season. This is the first major hurricane to hit the US this year, and there are more to follow, say weathermen. The country’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects 17 named storms before hurricane season ends on November 30, with four of them turning into major storms.  

With the country suffering through some of its worst hurricane seasons on record in the past few years, is there a link to climate change? Scientists are still being cautious because hurricanes are rarer than temperature changes, making them harder to monitor. But there have been some bold statements made in the past – such as water being warmed up by greenhouse gases, making hurricanes stronger. But the jury is still out on the link. What is known, however, is the rising cost of hurricanes with storms getting slower and wetter and as people move increasingly towards coastal areas.

Climate change causing shift in flooding patterns across Europe: Study

A new study has linked the changing patterns of flooding in Europe to climate change. The study, published in the journal Nature, found that in the past 50 years, flooding had become increasingly severe in north-western Europe, including the UK, it had decreased in southern and Eastern Europe. For example, the study found an 11% increase per decade in flood levels in northern England and southern Scotland to a 23% reduction in parts of Russia,

 These consistent patterns of flood change were in line with predicted climate change impacts, according to the study’s authors, who analysed records from 3,738 flood measurement stations across Europe from the period 1960 to 2010.