A homeless man stands in the doorway of a deli during flash flooding caused by storm Ida in the New York City borough of Queens. Picture: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA
A homeless man stands in the doorway of a deli during flash flooding caused by storm Ida in the New York City borough of Queens. Picture: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

How New York’s floods have everything to do with Africa and climate change

By Vivian Warby Time of article published Sep 2, 2021

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Extreme weather conditions, as seen in New York City only a few hours ago, will become the norm going forward given climate change, say experts.

When declaring a state of emergency for NYC the mayor, Bill de Blasio, described the flash flood which has already claimed one life as “a historic weather event with record-breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads”.

Power was also out in most of the area.

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Environmentalists have warned and continue to warn us: expect more of these extreme weather conditions as we globally battle with climate change.

Governments, they say, need to make a concerted effort to bring down carbon emissions if we do not want to become a society of climate refugees having to escape big climatic disasters.

Already we are seeing climate migration the world over… although small at present, and sometimes only temporary, should conditions continue to worsen, it could steeply increase people fleeing disaster areas permanently.

In the USA, so big is the problem of natural disasters that a property brokerage company actually released a list revealing the climate risk of areas.

Late on Wednesday night, the US National Weather Service (NWS) issued its first-ever flash flood warning for New York heavy rain flooded subway lines and streets in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey.

While there will always be natural disasters the effects of climate change will see these intensified, say the experts. One of the ways, as seen in NYC, will be how tropical storms will become more severe because of warmer ocean water temperatures.

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The recent IPCC report made it clear that we have less than ten years to turn the trajectory around.

For one, the increasing global surface temperatures, because of climate change, brings with it the possibility of more droughts and increased intensity of storms. And as more water vapour evaporates into the atmosphere it becomes fuel for more powerful storms to develop. More heat in the atmosphere and warmer ocean surface temperatures can lead to increased wind speeds in tropical storms.

But how does this affect all of us in Africa?

As with most things it is usually the poor that will feel the effects of climate change the most.

Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ Africa News Agency (ANA)

In South Africa, informal settlements are already the hardest hit in the normal rainy season because of where they are set up. Escalate the flooding into more extreme conditions and it’s not hard to not see how the disaster will play out severely for the poor.

Reports have also highlighted how increasing climate change threatens human health, food and water security and socio-economic development in Africa.

The most vulnerable are the hardest hit with climate change contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources.

Africa has itself seen devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and drought recently.

“The human and economic toll has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said World Meteorological Organisation, Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

So what does a flood disaster in New York City have to do with us, a million miles away? Everything… climate change is on our doorstep.

*Vivian Warby is editor Simply Green Magazine

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