From fire to fake snow – the global consequences of the climate crisis

australa

(David Clode, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Extremes of heat and cold are becoming more frequent.
  • Norway basks in 19°C heat in January.
  • Moscow imports fake snow for New Year as temperatures soar.

Picturing Norway in January probably brings to mind images of snow shovels, ski jackets and frosty fjords.

The average winter temperature in the country is -6.8°C. This year, however, western Norway is experiencing a heatwave, with the mercury hitting 19°C in the town of Sunndalsora. That’s more than 25°C above the seasonal average, and warm enough for locals to leave their jackets at home or take a dip in the sea.

 

Norway’s warmest ever January day isn’t alone in the record-breaking weather stakes, though.

In Moscow, Russia’s warmest year on record was capped when, in December 2019, lighter than usual snowfall led authorities to lay artificial snow at locations including the city’s Red Square in time for seasonal festivities.

And last year, at the other end of the scale, the Great Plains of the US and Canada suffered record low temperatures as a polar vortex brought icy weather south from the slowly warming Arctic.

February 2019 temperatures in the USA.
February 2019 temperatures in the USA.
Image: NOAA

Bushfire crisis

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Australia is battling the effects of extreme heat. Its Bureau of Meteorology says 2019 was its hottest, driest year on record.

The country is experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades and a heatwave in December broke the record for highest nationwide average temperature of 41.9°C. At the same time, a bushfire crisis is raging in areas along its eastern and southern coasts.

Scientists have warned climate change can increase the likelihood and intensity of wildfires. The Climate Council says a warming planet is making bushfire conditions more dangerous than they were in the past, increasing the risk to people and property.

Mean temperatures in Australia 1970-2018.
Mean temperatures in Australia 1970-2018.
Image: Bureau of Meteorology

A warming world

Globally, 2019 was among the warmest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

While meteorologists haven’t drawn a direct link between record temperatures and the climate crisis, they come as the world as a whole continues to warm as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. A spokesperson for the WMO said, for example, that the heatwaves that hit Europe last summer bore “the hallmarks of climate change”.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

According to the UN, limiting global warming to 1.5C to help protect the planet and its ecosystems is possible, but will require urgent action.

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiatives provide a global platform for multistakeholder partnerships to help raise ambition and speed up action on climate change.

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