How climate change is reshaping the world

(IStock/Washington Post illustration)
Placeholder while article actions load

At The Washington Post, we’re dedicated to covering the impacts of climate change and a warming world — both in the United States and around the world.

We’re dedicated to covering solutions, too. But we don’t believe in shying away from the extent of the problem and the impact warming temperatures are already having on our planet. Climate change is and will continue to touch almost everything around us, from our septic tanks to your seasonal allergies and the turbulence you experience on your next flight.

The most drastic impacts are disproportionately affecting poorer countries. And scientists are clear — without swift and drastic action, Earth will become uninhabitable. There is still time to stop some further impacts of a warming planet. (We’re tracking President Biden’s environmental actions here). But a warming and changing planet is already here.

Here is a look at some of The Post’s climate coverage on how rising temperatures are impacting the people, animals and agriculture around the world.

Mudslides are displacing millions of Brazilians

By Terrence McCoy

In Brazil, climate change has caused intense droughts, followed by punishing rains and catastrophic flooding. The country now has a problem that many here fear is impossible to solve. In a country of profound inequality and widespread poverty, the poor have long been locked out of the formal housing market, clustering together in often unsafe locations.

The nation does not have the resources, the logistical capacity or the political will to relocate the estimated 4 million Brazilians in areas of risk, housing analysts say, let alone address the underlying social issues that first gave rise to the favelas.

Read how climate change is increasing the strength and frequency of floods in Brazil

The cradle of civilization is becoming a grave

by Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim

Carved from an ancient land once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq is home to the cradle of civilization — the expanse between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where the first complex human communities emerged. But years of below-average rainfall have left Iraqi farmers more dependent than ever on the dwindling waters of the Tigris and Euphrates.

In the historic marshes, men are clinging to what remains of life as they knew it, as their buffaloes die and their wives and children scatter across nearby cities, no longer able to stand the summer heat.

Temperatures in Iraq topped a record 125 degrees in 2021, with aid groups warning that drought was limiting access to food, water and electricity for 12 million people here and in neighboring Syria. With Iraq warming faster than much of the rest of the globe, this is a glimpse of the world’s future.

Read about how climate changes is emptying villages

Rising water threatens South Sudan

By Rachel Chason and Adrienne Surprenant

Every year, South Sudan has a rainy season. But the water levels since 2019 have set records. Flooding in 2021 displaced more than 700,000 — about 1 in every 15 people in South Sudan. In some cases, mothers had so little to eat that they could not breastfeed. Cases of malaria and other waterborne illnesses surged.

The rising waters are driving what the World Food Program says is the biggest hunger crisis to hit South Sudan since it became independent from Sudan in 2011. More than 60 percent of the population is considered at a crisis level or worse.

Read more about how floods are impacting one of the poorest countries in the world

In England, historic buildings are collapsing

By William Booth

Hurst Castle has stood on its sandy spit since 1544, through the Napoleonic Wars and World War II. Its garrison protected the Allied forces on D-Day.

But last year, a large section of the castle — a wing constructed in the mid-19th century by the best military engineers in the world — tumbled into the fast currents of the Solent strait.

“Hurst Castle is one of the canaries in the coal mine, but it is just one of many,” said Keith Jones, climate change adviser for the National Trust, which cares for 28,000 historic buildings, including castles, mansions, barns, lighthouses, mills, pubs and villages, as well as holiday cottages.

The National Trust warned that while 5 percent of its 67,426 sites — natural and constructed — already face the “highest level” of threat from climate change, that portion could rise to 17 percent over the next 40 years, depending on what actions the world takes to limit future warming.

Read more about the threat facing historical buildings

A lack of weather data in Africa is thwarting critical climate research

By Rachel Chason and Rael Ombuor

Africa has just one-eighth the minimum density of weather stations recommended by the World Meteorological Organization, which means there is a problematic lack of data about dozens of countries that are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

On the ground, the dearth of data has meant inaccurate forecasts and poor or nonexistent early-warning systems for people increasingly experiencing deadly cyclones, prolonged droughts and intense floods. In the academic world, researchers say the lack of data has led to challenges in measuring the extent of climate change.

Read about a possible solution being developed at a girls school in Kenya

Drought in South America may be the new normal

By Diego Laje, Anthony Faiola and Ana Vanessa Herrero

From the frigid peaks of Patagonia to the tropical wetlands of Brazil, worsening droughts are slamming farmers, shutting down ski slopes, upending transit and spiking prices for everything from coffee to electricity.

So low are levels of the Paraná River running through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina that some ranchers are herding cattle across dried-up riverbeds typically lined with cargo-toting barges. Raging wildfires in Paraguay have brought acrid smoke to the limits of the capital. Last year, the rushing cascades of Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian-Argentine frontier reduced to a relative drip.

Analysts fear the droughts are a harbinger of a new normal, portending consistently lower crop yields in the future.

Read more about how South American droughts will impact our global future

The Great Barrier Reef nears a tipping point

By Darryl Fears

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its sixth massive bleaching event as climate change has warmed the ocean.

Reef managers have confirmed that aerial surveys detected catastrophic bleaching on 60 percent of the reef’s corals. The discovery is particularly disturbing, researchers said, because a cooling La Niña weather pattern in the ocean usually offsets warming that stresses coral and causes them to lose color.

Read about what can still be done to protect the Great Barrier Reef

Loading...
Loading...