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Área peatonal inundada en Colonia (Alemania). Shutterstock / Lensw0rId

Desde la madrugada del día 17 de Julio se suceden las noticias de inundaciones tremendas en los afluentes de la margen izquierda del Rin, sobre todo en su cauce medio. Las imágenes son dantescas, con hogares arruinados y vehículos destrozados.

En España estamos acostumbrados a este tipo de imágenes, pero las víctimas mortales no alcanzan, en cada ocasión, el número de las personas muertas o desaparecidas de aquella región. Es una zona esencialmente plana, no son ramblas como las españolas, o las de los cañones de la cuenca del río Colorado. Por eso la tragedia es más inesperada.

La situación del chorro polar los días anteriores muestra un esquema en Ω invertida sobre el Atlántico central, similar, pero inversa a la que produjo la ola de calor extremo en los estados de Oregón y Washington de los EE UU y la Columbia Británica de Canadá.…  Seguir leyendo »

A closer view of Australia’s smoke plume on Jan. 6. Partially hidden by clouds, New Zealand is visible below the plume’s center. Credit Michael Benson/Japanese Meteorological Agency

I have a pastime, one that used to give me considerable pleasure, but lately it has morphed into a source of anxiety, even horror: earth-watching.

Let me explain.

The earth from space is an incomparably lovely sight. I mean the whole planet, pole to pole, waxing and waning and rotating in that time-generating way it has, and not the views from the International Space Station, which is in a low orbit about 200 miles up and gives us only part of the whole.

My earth-watching, made possible by NOAA and Colorado State University websites, originates in three geostationary weather satellites parked in exceedingly high orbits above the Equator.…  Seguir leyendo »

Esperando el Apocalipsis

El anuncio del fin del mundo, el milenarismo, es una constante del espíritu humano; no hay civilización, ni época, en que esta perspectiva no haya inflamado los espíritus. Solo cambian los escenarios: felices según algunos ideólogos, místicos o catastróficos, según otros. Karl Marx, un milenarista laico, imaginaba un fin del mundo en el que los hombres, todos iguales, vivirían en una abundancia perpetua. Los milenaristas místicos, de cualquier religión, tienden más a ciertas formas del Apocalipsis y a la desaparición de la humanidad. También es común en todas estas profecías la idea de que el fin del mundo irá precedido por un conflicto mortal entre las fuerzas del bien y las fuerzas del mal; la lucha de clases según Marx, la confrontación entre Gog y Magog según algunos pensadores cismáticos cristianos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. Photograph: Andrew Merry/Getty Images

On any day, between 10,000 and 30,000 bushfires burn around the planet.

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. The advent of “the age of fire” is the bleakest warning yet that humans have breached boundaries we were never meant to cross.

It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: that the world economy, civilisation, and maybe our very survival as a species are on the line. And it is past time to act.

It isn’t just fires. It’s the incessant knell of unnatural (human-fed) disasters: droughts, floods, vanishing rivers, lakes and glaciers and the rise in billion-dollar weather impacts.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lundi à Beira, après le passage du cyclone Idai. Photo Rick Emenaket. AFP

Alors que la Semaine africaine du climat se déroule au Ghana, le Mozambique, le Malawi et le Zimbabwe prennent la mesure des ravages du cyclone Idai qui vient de traverser leurs villes et leurs villages. Idai a pris des centaines de vie et laissé un sillon de destruction derrière lui. Sur un continent déjà torturé par les dérèglements climatiques, Idai est un nouveau rappel glaçant du pouvoir destructeur de ce type de tempêtes, qui vont devenir de plus en plus fréquentes à mesure que la planète se réchauffe.

Le cyclone a atteint les côtes le jour de l’ouverture, à Nairobi, du «One Planet Summit» convoqué par le président, Emmanuel Macron.…  Seguir leyendo »

Honduran migrants in a caravan heading toward the United States walk from San Pedro Tapanatepec to Santiago Niltepec, Oaxaca State, Mexico, on Tuesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Climate change is an “unseen driver” behind the thousands of Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran migrants heading toward the U.S. border, one recent article suggested. Food insecurity and poverty in Central America comes not just from violence and corruption, but also from worsening droughts and changing weather patterns.

And Hurricane Michael in early October, perhaps the most powerful storm to hit the United States since 1969, is another stark piece of evidence that our world is fast approaching — or has reached — a “tipping point.” The enduring environmental damage from climate change is likely to have broad social implications. But who is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change?…  Seguir leyendo »

El huracán Harvey ha dejado en su estela vidas agobiadas y enormes daños materiales, estimados en unos 150 a 180 miles de millones de dólares. Sin embargo, la tormenta que azotó la costa de Texas durante casi una semana completa, también plantea preguntas profundas sobre el sistema económico y las políticas de Estados Unidos.

Es irónico, sin lugar a dudas, que un evento relacionado con el cambio climático haya ocurrido en un Estado que es el hogar de tantos que niegan la existencia del mismo – y donde la economía depende tan fuertemente de los combustibles fósiles que impulsan el calentamiento global.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los aymara designaban así, con ese nombre, al territorio que hoy es la república de Chile, significando un lugar tan lejano y apartado que en ese confín se acababa la tierra.

Después de este verano que mi mujer y yo hemos pasado en Santiago se me ocurre, sin embargo, que subyace a esa palabra originaria otra posible definición, quizás profética: Chile como el límite donde lo que se acaba no es el espacio, sino el tiempo, los días que le quedan a la tierra en poder de los humanos.

Nunca han descendido sobre este país meridional tantas catástrofes naturales seguidas. Por una vez, no se trata de los terremotos y tsunamis que nos han asediado desde tiempos inmemoriales.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents working to prevent a wildfire from spreading to their homes in Vina del Mar, Chile, in March.

Here in Chile, in the far south of the Southern Hemisphere, it has been the summer of our discontent. Never have so many natural catastrophes in a row hit this country at the end of the world. For once, it is not the earthquakes that have assailed us since time immemorial or the tsunamis that often follow, devastating land and coast, mountainscapes and ocean. This time, our unprecedented woes have all been man-made.

First were the forest wildfires, mostly to the south of Santiago, the worst in recorded history. Countless acres have been burned to cinders, killing people and livestock, leveling a whole town, destroying centenarian trees as well as newer woodlands meant for export.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por una dolorosa ironía del cambio climático, las personas menos responsables del problema a menudo son quienes más expuestas quedan a sus estragos. Y si hay un país víctima de esta injusticia climática, ese es Pakistán. Mientras los líderes del mundo se preparan para la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático en París, Pakistán aún no se recupera de los efectos de las devastadoras inundaciones que dañaron edificios, destruyeron cosechas, se llevaron puentes y mataron a 238 personas.

Estas tragedias relacionadas con el clima no son nuevas para Pakistán, pero sí su frecuencia y ferocidad. Las inundaciones mortales se han convertido en eventos anuales; en 2010, lluvias récord mataron a casi 2000 personas y expulsaron a millones de sus hogares.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dans une contribution récente (Libération, 17 mars), la secrétaire d’Etat chargée du Développement, et de la Francophonie, affirme que «87% des catastrophes climatiques ont un lien avec le réchauffement de la planète». Cette affirmation est doublement fausse, et elle est malheureusement révélatrice d’un certain catastrophisme climatique. Pour l’appuyer, Mme Girardin cite «les dernières données du Bureau des Nations unies pour la réduction des risques». Or, ce n’est pas ce que dit cette institution, qui affirme seulement que 87% des catastrophes naturelles (et non pas «climatiques») seraient «liées au climat» (et non pas «liées au réchauffement de la planète»).…  Seguir leyendo »

Comme dans toute tragédie environnementale de cette ampleur, les jours qui suivent le passage du cyclone Pam au Vanuatu sont terribles. Ce petit pays qui fait rarement parler de lui se retrouve à la « une » de tous les journaux. Des témoignages effrayants nous parviennent, comme celui d’une résidente de longue date qui décrit « le bruit d’un train de marchandises qui passerait le long de [sa] maison ». Ou d’autres, qui nous racontent avoir entendu, terrorisés, le fracas des arbres arrachés, réfugiés dans un abri de fortune ou dans un container à marchandises.

L’attente, ensuite, insoutenable : car si des nouvelles sont rapidement parvenues de la capitale, Port-Vila, le reste du pays est coupé de toute communication.…  Seguir leyendo »

Près de 7 000 morts. 102 millions de personnes touchées. 110 milliards de dégâts. Voici le bilan humain et financier des catastrophes naturelles en 2014. On est certes loin de 2010, avec 300 000 morts provoqués par les tsunamis et les tremblements de terre, ou même de 2013 où le seul typhon Haiyan avait provoqué la mort de plus de 6 500 personnes.

Nous les appelons catastrophes «naturelles» comme si c’était une fatalité, mais les dernières données du bureau des Nations unies pour la réduction des risques montrent qu’en 2014, 87% des catastrophes climatiques avaient un lien avec le réchauffement de la planète.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) Conference was held in Samoa this week, it is important to reflect on the unique development challenges that some of these small island nations around the world contend with.

Many support small populations that face multiple threats; one of the foremost being climate change which has lead to changing weather patterns such as drought and heavier and more frequent rainfall. National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from the Pacific to the Caribbean, to the Indian Ocean, are eyewitnesses to the humanitarian impacts of these changes.

Every day our volunteers are working in local communities where people are losing their livelihoods and food sources because of flooding, or shrinking water resources.…  Seguir leyendo »

Our Lonely Home in Nature

The tornadoes that have been devastating parts of the South and Midwest, just weeks after a deadly mudslide in Washington, demonstrate once again the unimaginable power of nature.

After each disaster, we grieve over the human lives lost, the innocent people drowned or crushed without warning as they slept in their beds, worked in their fields or sat at their office desks. We feel angry at the scientists and policy makers who didn’t foresee the impending calamity or, if forewarned, failed to protect us. Beyond the grieving and anger is a more subtle emotion. We feel betrayed. We feel betrayed by nature.…  Seguir leyendo »

Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines last fall, reminded us how much suffering and damage nature can cause, and how important it is to invest in resilience and be ready to respond.

As climate change and booming urbanization leave more and more people exposed to hazard, governments worldwide want to make sure their roads, buildings and public services can withstand natural disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes.

Here are seven lessons, culled from years of experience, on how to reduce risks:

1) Identify those risks. Indonesia has shown how this can be done. There, the government and partners developed InaSAFE, a free interactive software program that allows local officials to ask questions that help them quantify the damage a disaster might cause.…  Seguir leyendo »

As part of the pivot to Asia, the U.S. government has ramped up its counterterrorism cooperation with the Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere. But the bigger question from the perspective of the Filipinos, beyond the disaster at hand, is this: Why is it that the United States still doesn’t have a domestic consensus that there is such a thing as climate change? When we talk about a global community, we at least ought to be able to start with that item at the top of the agenda.

For Filipinos and many poor people around the world, climate change, in effect, is terrorism conducted on them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Does global warming weaken tornadoes?

Yes, you read that correctly. Despite the recent spate of deadly twisters, including those that tore through the Midwest over the weekend, the scientific evidence shows that strong to violent tornadoes have actually been decreasing for the past 58 years, and it is possible that the explanation lies with global warming.

That is certainly not the popular impression. Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, commented in May on the powerful tornadoes that had just hit Oklahoma. “This is climate change,” she said, adding: “You’re going to have terrible storms. You’re going to have tornadoes.” Commenting around the same time, Michael E.…  Seguir leyendo »

Historians may look back at Typhoon Haiyan as a turning point in disaster journalism and the politics of climate change. For the first time, an extreme-weather catastrophe in the tropics has shrugged off its “made in Asia” label and gone global.

Coverage of storms, floods and droughts usually begins and ends with war-zone style reporting about dire conditions on the ground. The raw numbers of the dead are interwoven with tragic personal histories of survivors who have lost homes and loved ones. The truism that a picture speaks a thousand words is most true of disaster journalism. With so many shocking scenes of destroyed homes, floating corpses and crying children, the ratio of images to words -- already high in everyday reporting -- skyrockets.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Philippines's Typhoon Haiyan and its appalling death toll is a terrible example of the increasing force of extreme weather events. Will it shatter complacency about climate change, and electrify the laborious UN ministerial negotiations that are taking place in Warsaw? Do not bank on it, but do not despair either.

Hurricane Katrina came and went in 2005, and Gallup found that Americans worried about climate change jumped from 51% to 62%. Since then, recession focused people on survival, and climate worries receded. In Maslow's hierarchy, basic needs always trump the far-off threat. With recovery and Hurricane Sandy, American public concern is rising again, and it's now at 58%.…  Seguir leyendo »