Ominous clouds loom nearer…it’s time to get to the silver lining. Photo: Oleg Magni/Pexels
The cry of the Earth continues to intensify exponentially as extreme weather events wreak havoc throughout the world.
March 2022 was the fifth-warmest March since temperatures were first recorded in 1880, according to NASA and other global agencies’ rankings. This year also promises to be among the 10 warmest years ever recorded, as specified by a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In an article from The Guardian, scientists claimed that this is the first time there has been widespread coral bleaching during La Niña, which would normally bring cooler conditions over the reef.
“This is the first time we’ve seen mass bleaching in a ‘La Niña.’ That’s because of global warming,” said Prof Terry Hughes, a leading coral scientist at Townsville’s James Cook University.
Costly weather disasters in the first quarter of 2022
According to AON’s global catastrophe recap, this year’s first quarter saw significant natural hazard activity, causing an overall economic loss of $32 billion. The two costliest were: flooding in eastern Australia ($4 billion) and Winstorm Eunice in central and western Europe ($4.1 billion).
The deadliest weather disaster of the quarter was the landslide that killed 232 people in Brazil’s Petropolis area this February, triggered by flooding. The death toll of this catastrophe has unfortunately been surpassed by recent devastating floods in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, where at least 443 people have died and 63 remain unaccounted for, according to Al Jazeera.
“The loss of life, destruction of homes, the damage to the physical infrastructure … make this natural disaster one of the worst ever in recorded history of our province,” said Sihle Zikalala, the province’s premier.
Antarctic sea ice extent: a microcosm of the Earth
The National Snow & Ice Data Center indicated that this March was the second lowest on record, noting that an atmospheric river caused one of the most extreme heat waves in world history in Antarctica. Experts say the heat wave did not cause significant melting of the ice sheet.
“It’s a gut check for the glaciology community,” said Peter Neff, a glaciologist with the University of Minnesota, in a recent Christian Science Monitor article. “We have record low sea ice [around East Antarctica]. We have a much stronger heat wave than we ever thought was possible. And an ice shelf collapsing in a place where we didn’t expect it to collapse…It causes concern for us that we’re not fully appreciating the vulnerability of East Antarctica.”
According to the National Science Foundation, Antarctica holds 90% of the world’s ice, and 70% of Earth’s freshwater volume; even partial melting could have a catastrophic impact on coastal communities around the world. Antarctica, internationally owned, is a microcosm for how geopolitical structures contribute to and are affected by what happens there, as is the case with our common home.
There is hope, but we must act now
Sir David Attenborough, named Champion of the Earth by the UN, knows the power of success stories that give hope. He uses the example of whales, on the verge of extinction 50 years ago, that are now thriving after people got together to find solutions. “We know what the problems are and we know how to solve them. All we lack is unified action.”
As people of faith, we must heed the cry of the Earth and Pope Francis’ words in Laudato Si’, as there is no “planet B”:
“There is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet… Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (LS 19).
Watch our video: Laudato Si’ Week 2022!