Global warming creates unstable Earth

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The Independent Online

The devastating floods in India and massive forest fires in the USare almost certainly connected, and appearto be the predictable consequences of global warming.

The devastating floods in India and massive forest fires in the USare almost certainly connected, and appearto be the predictable consequences of global warming.

Many scientists believe that global warming is beginning to destabilise the planet's climate.

Aid agencies have been watching in horror over the past few years as the number and intensity of extreme weather events - EWEs - have begun to increase alarmingly.

Over the past three years, more than 20 major EWEs have cost 100,000 people their lives.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies said that climate change is manifesting itself "in a catalogue of disasters such as storms, droughts and flooding unparalleled in modern times.

"The world is becoming increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters," says World Disasters Report, a recent Red Cross document.

Global warming is "making the forces of wind, rain and sun even harder to predict and counter," it says. "The world is at risk as never before."

Global warming leads to greater extremes of drought (typically in continental interiors), and flood (in or near continental peripheries) because it increases evaporation and consequently the amount of energy within weather systems. Some regions get drier. Others have more large rainstorms.

The higher level of EWEs has not only killed tens of thousands, but has also robbed up to 300 million - mainly in the developing world - of their homes or livelihoods.

In 1999, 40,000 died from massive rainstorm-induced flooding in Venezuela. In Orissa, eastern India, 30,000 died when a 160mph super-cyclone created a 20ft tidal surge, and 10 million others were severely affected. In China, 800 died in more floods - and 5 million others lost their homes or livelihoods. South-east Asia was also hit. So far this year, thousands have died and two million others affected in Mozambique and elsewhere in southern Africa.

David Keys, Archaeology correspondent of 'The Independent', is the author of 'Catastrophe - An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World'.

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