While a polar vortex has been hitting the United States, weather events of similar proportions have devastated Australia on the other side of the world. However, Australia has dealt with overwhelming heat rather than cold. On a global scale, there seems to be a myriad of chaotic climate events ranging from blistering cold, scorching heat and pouring rain to desiccating drought. The impacts they have had on people are disastrous—and do not seem to be letting up.

2013 marked a difficult year for Australians, as it was the hottest year they have ever had on record. More recently, temperatures have soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and people of Australian provinces such as Victoria have suffered. The majority of people affected by the heat have been those of lower income communities who are unable to deal with the weather or elderly people with pre-existing health conditions.

With an overwhelming number of calls from heat exhaustion and cardiac arrest victims, first responders have been unable to successfully address the calls they’ve been getting. In fact, “at one point paramedics [in Victoria] were receiving a call every six minutes for cardiac arrest victims.” Ambulance Victoria also reported roughly a 700 percent rise in the number of calls they received for cardiac arrests.

However, the community health issues extend to other areas as well. In just a week, paramedics had to treat about 500 heat exhaustion victims and there were reports of around 60 children locked in cars during the extreme heat. With the combination of all of the ramifications of the heat wave, first responders asserted that their workload had increased tremendously.

The Australian government and people have taken notice of chaotic weather events considering how disastrous 2013 was for them. As the heat continues for them in 2014, attitudes towards energy and environmental policy are expected to change. While the global community has far exceeded a consensus on climate change, nations are forced to catch up with policies that are perpetuated the issue.

Australia has begun to acknowledge climate related issues stemming from the burning of fossil fuels and have started to shift towards renewable energy sources. The potential for solar energy specifically is quite vast in Australia and they are beginning to make better use of it.

Nevertheless, with a considerable amount of outdated policies, there are still regulatory and market barriers that have hindered the renewable energy industry. Therefore, as a heat wave continues to overwhelm Australia, leaders are expected to begin taking substantial steps to establishing a clean energy future.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: ABC News, IB Times, UQ
Photo: Business Review Australia

For a long time, human civilization has seen refugees from all kinds of nations, due primarily to political or militaristic reasons. However, there is set to be an occurrence of some of the first mass cases of “environmental refugees,” who will be forced to leave their homes as a result of climate change.

For example, small island nations with extensive low-lying coastal areas are placed in a difficult position because of rising seas. While for most developed countries the issue of climate change does not implicate intensive and readily apparent consequences, the same does not apply for many developing island nations—whose very existence is threatened by the projected rising seas of the near future.

The necessity for adaption is an especially prominent issue that these island nations face. This is particularly true since many of them are small and still developing, making it difficult for them to counter rising seas on their own. Moreover, public money that may be spent towards healthcare or education is often required to be reallocated towards protecting their shores. This ends up putting a drain on the economies of various island nations, making the situation for their people looks quite bleak.

The United Nations have identified 52 small island developing states that will face the brunt of climate change effects. All of them—very unique with their own lasting culture—may see their way of life come to an end, as communities will eventually become heavily displaced. However, the issue extends to a plethora of other people on a global scale as well. For instance, the majority of the global population is situated among coastal areas, while many others, over 600 million people worldwide to be exact, may also face the possibility of displacement since they are living within low-lying coastal areas less than 10 meters above sea level.

To address some of the issues presented, the United Nations General Assembly convened late in 2013. Speaking on behalf of small island developing states, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda—Winston Baldwin Spencer—spoke about the rising greenhouse gas concentrations stemming almost exclusively from a number of nations within the developed world. Pleading his case, Spencer stated that, “Developed countries should shoulder their moral, ethical and historical responsibilities for emitting the levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is those actions which have now put the planet in jeopardy and compromised the well-being of present and future generations.”

Following the Kyoto Protocol, which unsuccessfully attempted to put a cap on the atmospheric carbon concentration, the United Nations has established the 2014 Climate Summit. World leaders from across the globe are expected to congregate in order to address climate issues and push for innovative solutions that span across areas including government, business, finance, industry and civil society.  The Summit is planned to take place in New York during September of 2014 and will attempt to accomplish a global climate agreement. This will be of monumental significance for small island developing states as they are already doing as much as they can to limit the number of environmental refugees, but find that they still need the help and cooperation of the entire international community.

Jugal Patel

Sources: World Issues 360, Inter-Research, United Nations, United Nations
Photo: The Age