Globally, from Europe to China to the United States and Africa, 2022’s summer was marked by severe drought, which had far-reaching consequences, including widespread power outages and widespread hunger.
Drought has been a constant in parts of the United States, including California, leading to widespread water restrictions. Agriculture and energy transportation are only two sectors hit hard by unprecedented droughts in other parts of the world. Many regions, including the United Kingdom, which is currently experiencing excessive heat and drought, lack the necessary infrastructure to deal with such conditions. Due to the prolonged heat and dryness, any precipitation is likely to lead to floods.
Even though China and other places are turning to creative approaches like cloud seeding to at least protect agriculture, heat waves are likely to get more severe in the future, contributing to further drought, and this summer’s widespread drought does not paint a particularly hopeful picture for our collective climate future. That implies more forest fires, more trouble for farmers, especially in developing nations, and more people being forced to move because of drought and hunger.
There are many different factors that can lead to a drought.
There have been droughts before, and they’ve caused hunger and population shifts in the past. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was the worst drought in United States history. It was caused by low rainfall, extreme heat, and severe financial distress due to the Great Depression, among other factors, and it affected parts of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, leading to crop failure, poverty, and displacement.
There is likely more than one root cause for the current droughts that are affecting large swaths of North America, the Horn of Africa, China, the United Kingdom, and portions of Europe. Droughts are often brought on by high temperatures and abnormally little rainfall. According to Vox’s Neel Dhanesha, higher temperatures cause water to evaporate faster, and when precipitation does occur, it is more likely to fall as rain rather than snow. Water is mostly sourced from snowpack in California and the American West, which consists of layers of snowfall kept frozen due to temperatures below freezing and subsequently melts as temperatures increase. Drought is exacerbated by the fact that warmer temperatures melt less snow, so water supplies become less predictable and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Benji Jones of Vox reported that low water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead are having a negative impact on agriculture in portions of California and Arizona. While some farmers have reduced their use of Colorado River water already, more reductions will be essential as the drought shows no signs of ending.
The World Weather Attribution initiative, a group of climate scientists from around the world, concluded that the record-breaking heat wave that hit the United Kingdom in July (with temperatures reaching nearly 105 degrees Fahrenheit) was “extremely unlikely” to have occurred without the influence of human-caused climate change. Heatwaves have become more common in Europe over the past several years, but the recent heat in the UK has been so strong that it is also an uncommon phenomenon in today’s climate, the study concluded. That study indicated that the extreme temperatures were at least 10 times more likely due to human-caused climate change, based on a combination of observational and modeling investigations.
NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel told Axios, “The first truth is that we live in a nightmare,” in reference to the current heat wave throughout Europe. Extreme weather is becoming more common, with serious ramifications for public health and extremely irritating inactivity from Congress, as predicted by climate models. No plausible scenario exists in which warming stops at 1.2 °C; hence, the situation will only worsen.
While governments and relief organizations are taking measures like water and energy rationing and aid distribution in response to drought and the associated famine, power outages, wildfires, and water shortages, the time for significant action to address climate change has long since gone. In reality, an analysis from the Rhodium Group found that after years of stability or decline, greenhouse gas emissions in the United States climbed last year. This comes as a result of both Europe’s return to coal power in the face of sanctions on Russian fuel and the country’s reliance on oil imports.