This past week, Germany and Belgium experienced unprecedented flooding as the countries were bombarded with nonstop rainstorms, leading to rivers overflowing their banks and entire towns being submerged underwater. Over 170 people have died, the German government is racing against the clock to distribute reparation funds (needing over 200 million euros = $235.5 million), thousands of business owners lost their shops, cities are without power/food/clean water, and Germans & Belgiums alike are struggling to remain optimistic in the face of tragedy. A catastrophic event like this is forecast to occur once every hundred years, but thanks to climate change flooding has become more frequent, intense, and costly (in human lives and economic reparations). Meteorologists have determined that a large storm system, brought about by above average humidity levels, caused these torrential downpours in addition to an abnormal jet stream, which pushed the storm cell directly across Europe instead of safely diverting it over the Norweigan Sea. It’s become clear that Germany and Belgium were caught off guard by the intensity and unpredictable timing of the floods as both countries continue to reel from a devastating blow.
The 2021 European Floods highlight the pure chaos and destruction climate change is capable of producing. Despite being at the forefront of environmentalism, Europe continues to bear the consequences of our irresponsible actions towards our planet. This isn’t the only environmental disaster currently battering the country. In Siberia, a large portion of the region is fighting against scattered wildfires burning through vast forests, threatening local ecosystems and millions of people nearby. As Siberians put it, “If we don’t have the forest, we don’t have a life.” Yes, ice-cold Siberia is on fire. Similarly, California and Arizona are still dealing with wildfires that have been hitting the states for months, even years. On top of that, Arizona is in the middle of a crippling drought that has killed off a large yield of crops and water supplies. And in addition to Europe and the U.S., Canada is also in the midst of wildfire season with regions ranging from British Columbia to Quebec experiencing blazes that seem impossible to put out.
With all of this in mind, it’s safe to argue that nowhere and no one is 100% safe from the devastating impacts of climate change. Needless to say, we still have time to remedy our climate crisis before environmental degradation becomes irreversible. Our planet has undergone a significant transformation, both environmentally and humanely. In the 1980s, before climate change was recognized as a global threat, our ecosystems were in much greater balance, cold regions stayed cold and hot regions stayed hot. Glaciers didn’t melt rapidly and wildlife populations were not endangered. Even 40 years later, climate change has only grown more imminent and impending on us to act. I recently read Falter by Bill McKibben, an environmentalist who warned us 30 years ago about how severe climate change was going to become. He communicates that most humans decide to take climate change seriously because our nature is to not think about things until they pose an imminent threat to us. If it harms us in the present, then we react. As a result, an issue like climate change could easily snowball into a more uncontrollable issue and will eventually get to the point where humanity is rolling dice for survival. But if we take action now when we still have a big opportunity to do so, it can restore equilibrium in our environment and planet overall. Change is inevitable: make it happen.