Why you should care
You’ve never thought about these global warming–induced changes.
Charu Sudan Kasturi
OZY Senior Editor Charu Sudan Kasturi's column, "Butterfly Effect," connects the dots on seemingly unrelated global headlines, highlighting what could happen next and who is likely to be impacted.
The reality of climate change hits us harder with every passing extreme weather event — drought or flood, hurricane or heatwave. Severe water shortages are parching Cape Town and Chennai, forest fires are singeing California, storms batter the Caribbean and the threat of drowning looms over low-lying islands in the Pacific.
But the impacts of climate change extend well beyond the news we read on the front pages of newspapers and on our mobile apps with increasing frequency. OZY’s latest original series, Climate Surprises, gives you a front-row seat to the global warming–induced changes — from your home to your holiday and from forests to food — that you’ve never heard about, but that could shape the world.
Despite its long coastline, Somaliland doesn’t have a history of fishing. Meat is the preferred food, and fish is looked down upon. But the unlikely combination of a series of droughts and a Danish shipwreck are turning this land — which isn’t even recognized as an independent nation by any country — into a regional hub for the fishing industry.
The Black Forest is southern Germany’s biggest natural draw. It’s also in danger of being eaten alive by the bark beetle. The extreme hot summers and warm, wet winters are an ideal breeding ground for the bugs. Instead of one generation per summer, foresters are now observing two and three generations of beetles in one season.
The Gangasagar mela is a religious festival that takes place each year at the mouth of the holy Ganges River. This year, over 3 million Hindu pilgrims came to submerge themselves in the sea. But that sea is rising. Sagar Island, where the festival takes place, is under threat by rising sea levels and coastal erosion. And the temple where pilgrims worship has had to shift.
As floods, droughts, typhoons and other extreme weather phenomenon batter nations with growing frequency, donors are turning weary and selective, leaving South Asia, one of the world’s regions most vulnerable to climate change, even weaker in its ability to grapple with such mounting crises.
For centuries, Indians built houses using mud, clay and occasionally stone — with cement entering the country only in 1914. But modern Western forms of construction took over the nation, relegating mud homes only as the resort of the poor. Now, as the world’s largest democracy faces a growing climate crisis, more and more architects and builders are reverting to mud- and clay-crafted houses, using their bare hands but combining traditional knowledge with modern science.
It’s no surprise that climate change is changing the way we live — for some, rather drastically. But for the privileged, it’s also changing vacation. With coastlines submerging (sea levels could realistically rise 14 meters by the end of the century) and balmy destinations becoming barmy, where are the vacation hot spots — or cool spots — of the future?
Spekboom, a woody succulent that is native to South Africa’s Eastern Cape, is super effective at absorbing carbon. This is due to an incredible quirk of evolution that allows it to photosynthesize at night as well as during the day. A project to rewild areas where spekboom is native is proving to be a success.
Inside the confines of a petrochemical plant near Johannesburg, South Africa, something interesting has happened: A charismatic carnivore — the serval — has made itself at home and thrived here. The reason? An abundance of rodent prey and the absence of persecution or competitor species. This goes to show how industrialized sites can provide ideal conditions to support some species, such as mesocarnivores.
Amid unequaled environmental destruction in the Amazon and the growing attention to the vital function of rainforests in controlling global temperatures, indigenous peoples across Latin America are beginning to win key battles in their efforts to protect their ancestral lands according to their traditions.