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Wildfires, Blackouts, Evacuations: Four Ways In Which Climate Change Is Sending the World Up In Smoke

From wildfires in Canada to a severe heatwave in India, global warming is making its presence known.

epa05289506 A tree trunk burns due to a forest fire in village Jharet in Palampur, some 52 km from Dharamsala, India, 04 May 2016. As temperatures rise, chances of forest fires in the area increase rapidly in hot weather.  EPA/SANJAY BAID
epa05289506 A tree trunk burns due to a forest fire in village Jharet in Palampur, some 52 km from Dharamsala, India, 04 May 2016. As temperatures rise, chances of forest fires in the area increase rapidly in hot weather. EPA/SANJAY BAID

A city in Canada is on fire. Schools in India have closed early for the summer due to intense heat. Across the world, the effects of global warming on ordinary lives are getting harder to ignore. February 2016 was the most “unusually warm” month ever measured, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This week, the World Bank released a report finding that climate change is likely to significantly disrupt the world’s water supply, causing human suffering and negative economic growth in some areas.

Below, Foreign Policy presents a roundup of some of the worrisome ways global warming making its presence known.

Canada: A wildfire forced 80,000 people to flee their homes this week in what Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley called the “biggest evacuation… in the history of the province.” Fort McMurray, an oil sands town, has drawn oil workers from around the globe. Ironically, what made the city prosperous — the extraction of fossil fuels — is also what has left many residents homeless after high temperatures, low winds, and dry conditions stoked the fire to blaze out of control.  

India: Local governments across India are closing schools early for summer vacation due to a heat wave and drought, forcing the rescheduling of many end-of-year exams. The drought has already affected 330 million people this year, and is believed to be responsible for the high suicide rate among farmers in Maharashtra.

Venezuela: Last Tuesday, President Nicolas Maduro shortened the Venezuelan work week to just two days in an attempt to save energy. A severe drought has hampered the country’s ability to produce the hydroelectric power it needs to keep the lights on. The result has been rotating blackouts and electricity rationing, which in some cases has led to riots.

United States: For the first time this January, the United States allocated funding — even if only $48 million — to resettle an entire community of so-called climate refugees, most of them Native American. Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana is literally washing away after losing 90 percent of its original mass since 1955. The island is expected to disappear as ocean levels rise due to melting glaciers. “We’re going to lose all our heritage, all our culture,” Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe told The New York Times this week.

Photo credit: SANJAY BAID/EPA

Megan Alpert is a fellow at Foreign Policy. Her previous bylines have included The Guardian, Guernica Daily, and Earth Island Journal. @megan_alpert

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