Submerged, yet again: Assam bore the brunt of this year’s torrential downpour in India’s north-east and lost 150 lives as rising waters submerged entire districts | Image: DNAIndia

Extreme weather: Incessant rain, flooding hit several parts of India

Extreme weather events wreaked havoc across the globe this fortnight. In India, the residents of Assam and Bihar battled floods after incessant rain, with the death toll crossing the 150 mark. Punjab was also hit by flood-like situations in seven districts. Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, which is home to the endangered one-horned rhino, was almost entirely submerged, killing at least 10 rhinos. Down south, the Kerala government issued a red alert in six districts with four people dying of rain-related tragedies this week.

The extreme rain, notwithstanding, Assam is still recording a rainfall deficit of 14%, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). In the past few years, the trend in India has been that of a poor start to the monsoon, followed by extreme weather events such as flood-causing rain, which then makes up for the deficit recorded in the beginning of the four-month monsoon season.

And this trend is only going to get worse, according to a new study, which predicted future climate conditions of 520 major cities worldwide. By 2050, the study says wet seasons in the tropics will get wetter and dry seasons will get drier, increasing the danger of droughts and floods. 

West feels the heat: French village sizzles at 46°C, US issues heatwave alerts

Extreme weather events have also gripped the West. The Canadian Arctic witnessed freak heat. Climate scientists have warned the record temperatures across the world could make July the hottest month ever on Earth. In France, Verargues, a small village in the south, recorded the highest temperature in the country at 46°C on June 28, surpassing the 45.9° C that was reported at Gallargues-le-Montueux.

The US also issued heatwave alerts across central and eastern regions of the country. Washington recorded a temperature of 41°C, with predictions that it will get even hotter in the days to come. In central Portugal, villagers and firefighters battled three wildfires with reports of at least 30 people suffering injuries.

Leaked IPCC land report warns of increasing food insecurity

A leaked draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on climate change and land degradation has noted that humans affect 72% of total ice-free land and have contributed to the degradation of a quarter of it. The report states that currently Earth’s land was contributing to a net removal of approximately 6.2 Gt of CO2 per year.

However, it also stresses on the fact that climate change was already impacting food security and was likely to further exacerbate risks related to desertification, land degradation and hunger. In a significant finding for countries such as India, the authors say, at global warming of 2°C, the population of drylands exposed and vulnerable to water stress, increased drought intensity and habitat degradation could be as high as 522 million. While warning against land degradation, the report also points out that rampant afforestation with bio energy crops is not good either as it could significantly impact food and nutrition security among vulnerable populations.

Sea level in Bengal’s Diamond Harbour rising faster than other Indian ports

Bengal’s Diamond Harbour has witnessed the highest rise in sea levels compared to all the other big ports in India, the country’s Ministry of Earth Sciences revealed last week. But is climate change to blame? Absolutely, say experts. According to the ministry, the sea level at Diamond Harbour rose at 5.16 mm a year between 1948 and 2004 – compared to a national average of 1.3 mm a year in the past 40-50 years. This is alarming as this puts the area at high risk of storm surges, tsunamis and coastal floods. Neighbouring Kolkata, the bustling capital of West Bengal, may well be in the eye of that storm.

Increased flooding risk due to climate change in the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna (GBM) basin, which the Diamond Harbour is part of, has already been highlighted in a new study. The study concluded that even if warming was limited to 1.5 °C, there would be an increase in extreme precipitation and corresponding flood hazard over the GBM basin compared to the current climate.

June Arctic wildfire emitted as much CO2 as Sweden does annually

Arctic wildfires emitted as much carbon dioxide last month as Sweden does in an entire year, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It claims the June wildfires emitted 50 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, more than what was released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined.

Another hotbed of wildfires, California, announced a $26 billion plan to tackle the growing problem. The plan creates a $21 billion fund to help state utilities, such as bankrupt PG&E Corp and other investor-owned utilities, cover liabilities arising from future wildfires caused by their equipment.

Lab-grown hamburger for $10 a reality soon?

Health- and environment-conscious foodies will soon be able to relish a hamburger guilt-free. European start-ups told Reuters this month that the $280,000 lab-grown hamburger could hit supermarket shelves as early as two years from now for as less as $10. Experts in the ‘clean meat’ industry say production costs have fallen dramatically since the first ‘cultured’ beef hamburger was created in 2013 at the cost of $280,400. The number of start-ups is also on the rise.

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