A global environmental update
Russia’s heatwave and the south Asian monsoon floods could be more than isolated examples of extreme weather, Wired reported. This year, scientists say, some of the air driven upward by the monsoon rains appears to have gone north to Russia rather than coming down as usual over the Mediterranean region.
Flooding brought on by heavy rains in Pakistan is creating a humanitarian and national disaster not seen in generations, according to United Press International. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said more than 1,600 people have died and another six million are in need of emergency assistance. Over one million hectares of cropland are under water, Pakistani officials said, and more than 300,000 homes have been destroyed.
Local people, foreign tourists and Indian soldiers are among the 185 people killed and hundreds missing after flash floods swept through the Himalayan region of Ladakh last week, Agence France-Presse reported. The floods swept away buildings, roads and power lines in Leh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and stranded many people in the mountains.
Smoke from forest fires smothering Moscow adds to health problems from near-permanent "brown clouds" from Asia to the Amazon, Reuters quoted environmental experts as saying, and Russian soot may stoke global warming by hastening a thaw of Arctic ice. Moscow’s top health official said about 700 people were dying every day, twice as many as in normal weather.
Many more people will die of heart problems as global warming continues, the BBC quoted experts are warning. As climate extremes of hot and cold become more common, people’s hearts will be strained, doctors say. A study in the British Medical Journal found that each temperature drop of 1° Celsius on a single day in the United Kingdom is linked to 200 extra heart attacks. Heatwaves, meanwhile, increase deaths from other heart-related causes.
The entire ice mass of Greenland will disappear if temperatures rise by as little as 2° Celsius, with severe consequences for the rest of the world, a panel of scientists told the US Congress. Meanwhile, Greenland shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century last week, The Guardian reported, quoting one researcher as saying: “What is going on in the Arctic now is the biggest and fastest thing that nature has ever done.” The Associated Press said the drifting ice island from the Petermann glacier could threaten oil platforms and shipping.
Russian emergency workers have increased forest patrols in the western Bryansk region contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, trying to prevent wildfires from spreading radiation, according to the Associated Press.
Greenpeace activists hung a banner from the roof of Poland’s environment ministry demanding the preservation of a primeval forest they say is under threat from logging, the Associated Press said. The Bialowieża forest is Europe’s last primeval forest.