Droughts, cyclones, floods and other extreme weather

Background - 1 July, 2016
The path to a hotter global climate will not be smooth. Ramped-up extreme weather — droughts, heatwaves, tropical cyclones, floods and fires — is taking us on a rough and dangerous ride. Each day we delay action to cut emissions means more damage for people, economies and ecosystems.

Global warming steadily drives up the planet's average temperature. But the changing climate's most powerful blows are wielded by deadly and destructive bursts of extreme weather. These effects are here and now.

Ramped-up heat waves, droughts and fires

Climate change has made heat waves more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting. It will only get worse in future. Heat waves can be deadly. The worst events may take thousands — even tens of thousands — of human lives. Heatwaves also stress the wildlife and wild places we love and seek to protect.  

Droughts have also become more intense and longer in some regions. They will get worse still in future, where climate change decreases rainfall and causes more water to evaporate in hotter weather.

Hot, dry conditions also pave the way for fires which, once started, burn longer and more intensely. Climate change has already extended fire danger seasons around the world since 1979.  Costly to fight, fires will destroy more forests and other natural vegetation, and increase risk to lives and property, with devastating economic costs.

Extreme rainfall and flooding

Climate change is expected to decrease total rainfall in some areas.

Yet because the climate is warming up, wherever rain does fall it will likely come in heavier bursts. Climate change is the likely reason for increased extreme rainfall already happening around the world.

More intense and extreme rainfall increases the risk of dangerous flash flooding that can take lives, erode soils, and reduce water quality.

Tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons)

Tropical cyclones  — also called hurricanes and typhoons — will become stronger in some regions as the planet warms, bringing higher winds and heavier rainfall. For the coastal communities they hit, these storms will be even more destructive.

Sea level rise has already vastly increased the chance of severe flooding from tropical cyclones. For coastal people, flooding is the most damaging impact of these powerful storms.

Extremes hit the most vulnerable people hardest

The people who can least afford more extreme weather are the ones worst affected. Since 1970, more than 95 percent of lives lost due to natural disasters have been in developing countries. Within these countries, people in megacities and on small islands are especially vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the biggest producers of coal, oil and gas continue to profit and pollute as usual, blind to this injustice and the misery of others.

What is Greenpeace doing?

To avoid the worst extremes, Greenpeace is driving the leap to a safe, secure energy system powered 100 percent by solar, wind, and other clean, renewable sources.

We also believe it's time to hold big carbon polluters to account, and that big polluters should contribute to making at-risk communities more resilient in the face of climate change.

More information