Devastating floods in Nigeria were 80 times more likely due to climate crisis

The heavy rains behind recent devastating floods in Nigeria, Niger and Chad have been made around 80 times more likely by the climate crisis, according to a study.

The discovery is the latest stark example of the severe impacts global warming is already having on communities, even with just a 1°C rise in global temperature to date. This adds pressure on the nations of the world at the UN COP27 climate summit in Egypt to take meaningful action to protect and compensate affected countries.

The floods that hit between June and November were among the deadliest on record in the region. Hundreds of people were killed, 1.5 million were displaced and more than 500,000 hectares of farmland were damaged.

The study, by an international team of climatologists part of the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group, used weather data and computer models to compare the likelihood of heavy rains in today’s heated world versus a world without global warming. Such rain would have been extremely rare without the man-made heating, they found, but is now expected to be once a decade.

A critical issue for the success of COP27 is establishing funding for “loss and damage” – compensation to rebuild after the inevitable climate disasters that increasingly hit vulnerable developing countries, which have contributed little to the climate crisis. These countries demand action from rich nations.

The WWA study said the reason the floods were so disastrous was that people in the area were already highly vulnerable to extreme weather, due to poverty, violent conflict and political instability.

“The analysis has found a very clear footprint of anthropogenic climate change,” said Professor Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, who is at COP27. “The floods have caused massive suffering and damage, especially in a context of great human vulnerability.

“As scientists, we are not in a position to tell Cop27 negotiators whether this should be a loss and damage fund, or a facility, or a patchwork of solutions, like everything is being discussed,” he said. “But what is very clear from the science is that this is a real and present problem and that it is particularly the poorest countries that are very badly affected, so it is clear that solutions are necessary.”

Professor Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and also at Cop27, said that analyzes like those of the WWA clearly show the link between global warming and climate disasters: ” Thus, the legitimacy of losses and damages has never been higher than it is today.”

The WWA team also assessed the 2021 drought in Africa’s central Sahel region that damaged crops and contributed to a food crisis in 2022. However, scientists were unable to estimate the influence of the climate crisis due to a lack of data from weather stations, highlighting the need to invest in weather stations.

“We see all over the world how important it is to know what the weather is like today, so that we can fully understand how it is changing and where we need to focus our adaptation efforts,” said Dr Friederike Otto. from Imperial College London.

A recent Guardian analysis of hundreds of studies laid bare the devastating escalation of extreme weather events that is claiming people across the world losing their lives and losing their livelihoods. At least a dozen major events, from deadly heat waves to raging seas, would have been virtually impossible without human-caused global warming.

Serious events in 2022 include catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, where global warming has increased rainfall intensity by around 50%, and record-breaking summer drought in the northern hemisphere, which would have been expected only once. every four centuries without the climate crisis. A deadly heat wave in South Asia earlier in the year has been made 30 times more likely.

WWA’s analysis focused on two regions: the Lake Chad basin, where the rainy season saw above-average rainfall, and the lower Niger basin, where there were shorter and shorter showers. more intense. The study team included researchers from Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Europe and the United States.

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