Russia, August 5:
Forest and peat bog fires have burned hundreds of homes, leaving thousands homeless in the hottest summer since records began 130 years ago, prompting leaders to declare a state of emergency in seven of the worst-hit regions.(Reuters)
As of July 30, the wildfires had scorched more than 25 million acres of grain – what Time Magazine reported as an area equivalent in size to the state of Kentucky. The fires, extreme heat and widespread drought have affected food prices throughout Russia, prompting the government to ban grain exports and declare a state of emergency in many parts of the country. Smoke from the fires has blanketed Moscow and other cities with a thick, toxic soup, causing some foreign diplomats to leave the country. The soil moisture in some portions of the country has dropped to levels one would expect only once every 500 years.
Recently Russian President Medvedev clearly drew the line between the extreme conditions Russia is experiencing this summer and climate change:
“What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate.”
This is the same leader who, two months after Copenhagen, called the global-warming debate “some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.” Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia commented on Medvedev’s dramatic change of heart:
“You don’t just throw comments like that around when you are the leader of the nation, and if you look at what is happening with this heat wave, it’s horrible. It’s clearly enough to shake people out of their delusions about global warming.”
Go to this link to view a dramatic video of people fleeing a Russian village over a road that’s on fire.
Pakistan, August 8:
Officials estimate that as many as 13 million people have been affected by the worst flooding in the country’s 63-year history. About 1,500 people have died, most of them in the north-west, the hardest-hit region.
These two unfolding disasters, involving excessive fire and water, are related to the extreme climate conditions that scientists project will become more frequent in a heating world. Are we ready yet to start addressing our part in the warming of the atmosphere? What will it take for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change his mind on global warming? In the past, he called the Kyoto Protocol “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations“. This summer, more than 100 communities in Saskatchewan declared a state of emergency after severe weather events. Provincial Fire Commissioner and Director of Public Safety recently said:
…while there have been forest fires and flooding in other years, 2010 is seeing an unprecedented number of events.
It’s clear that the dangers of global warming that scientists have been warning us about are here now. We do not need to wait until the end of this century to experience climate driven catastrophes. Don’t wait for our leaders to take action – 350.org is calling for a people-powered movement to start pressing for change that can’t be ignored. What will you tell your children and grandchildren 20 years from now when they ask you what you did to help avert this disaster? Check out Bill McKibbon’s recent blog: We’re Hot As Hell and We’re Not Going to Take it Anymore: Three Steps to Establish A Politics of Global Warming.