A new study from Oxford’s School of Geography warns that the majority of the global population, over 90%, is at risk of experiencing the devastating impacts of extreme heat and drought. These conditions have the potential to undermine the natural world’s ability to absorb CO2 emissions. The compound impacts of these environmental challenges pose a significant threat to communities around the world.
According to the new report published in Nature Sustainability, warming is expected to exacerbate the dangers of heat and drought ten-fold globally under the highest emission scenario.
As the world experienced record high temperatures in 2022 from London to Shanghai and continues to see rising temperatures, these linked threats pose a greater risk to society and ecosystems than when evaluated separately, according to the new research.
The new study has found that the frequency of extreme compounding hazards, such as heatwaves and droughts, is expected to significantly increase worldwide due to the combination of warming temperatures and decreasing water storage on land. This projection is based on the highest emission scenario, but even under the lowest emission scenario, more than 90% of the global population and GDP may be at risk of these compounding hazards in the future.
This new study came out shortly after a ‘once-in-a-generation’ winter storm hit the United States coast to coast. The storm affected around 60% of the U.S. population and was described by weather forecasters as “one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever.”
Europe also experienced severe winter weather in early December, with an Arctic blast bringing the coldest air of the season and snow to the Alps. The dipole weather pattern, with low pressure over the Atlantic and western Europe and more stable weather farther east and south, contributed to the cold conditions across Europe. The Arctic cold blast spread from north to south into the UK and Ireland before overspreading the rest of western and central Europe, resulting in temperatures significantly lower than normal for the winter season so far.