Nature and Biodiversity

Devastating floods hit Pakistan - and other environment stories you need to read this week

Flooding in Pakistan has killed at least 1,000 people in recent weeks. It could take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation, says climate change minister, Ahsan Iqbal.

Flooding in Pakistan has killed at least 1,000 people in recent weeks. It could take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation, says climate change minister, Ahsan Iqbal. Image: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • This weekly round-up brings you key environment stories from the past seven days.
  • Top stories: Devastating floods hit Pakistan; Europe facing worst drought in 500 years; US government to spend more than $500 billion on climate tech and clean energy over the next decade.

1. News in brief: Top environment and climate change stories to read this week

Extreme heat in China played havoc on 24 August despite lower temperatures in some regions, with authorities across the Yangtze river basin scrambling to limit the damage from climate change on power, crops and livestock.

China's heatwave, stretching past 70 days, is its longest and most widespread on record, with around 30% of the 600 weather stations along the Yangtze recording their highest temperatures ever by 19 August. The southwestern Chinese regions of Chonqging and Sichuan were battling fires on 23 August as the country's important autumn harvest remained under serious threat.

Meanwhile, Europe is facing its worst drought in at least 500 years, with two-thirds of the continent in a state of alert or warning, reducing inland shipping, electricity production and the yields of certain crops, a European Union agency said on 24 August. The August report of the European Drought Observatory, overseen by the European Commission, said 47% of Europe is under warning conditions, with clear deficit of soil moisture, and 17% in a state of alert, in which vegetation is affected.

Australia will have to invest in renewable energy and carbon capture and storage at unprecedented speed and scale in order for the economy to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, modelling released on 25 August showed.

California is set to launch an experiment to cover canals with solar panels, a plan that if scaled up might save billions of gallons of otherwise evaporated water while powering millions of homes.

The state will also require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be either electric or plug-in electric hybrids, a landmark move that could speed the end of gasoline-powered vehicles.

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Champagne grape pickers have started the harvest earlier this year, as climate change forces the makers of the French sparkling wine to rethink how they make bubbly. An August harvest, rather than in early September, used to be a once in a lifetime experience.

The number of people facing acute food insecurity worldwide has more than doubled to 345 million since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict and climate change, the World Food Programme said on 24 August.

Devastating flooding in Pakistan has killed at least 1,000 people in recent weeks and affected more than 33 million (over 15% of the country's population). Early estimates put the economic cost at more than $10 billion, with the climate change minister, Ahsan Iqbal, saying it could take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation.

NASA charts historic monsoon rains flooding Pakistan climate change
Historic monsoon rains and flooding have affected more than 30 million people. Image: Reuters

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is bringing Canada and Germany closer together, with Canada seeking to boost energy and critical mineral exports to Germany as both countries wean themselves off fossil fuels, Canadian and German leaders said on 22 August.

Worsening droughts, storms and torrential rain in some of the world's largest economies could cause $5.6 trillion in losses to the global economy by 2050, according to a report from the Emergency Events Database released on 29 August.

The worst drought in the Horn of Africa in more than 40 years looks almost certain to persist after the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on 26 August that forecasts for October-December show a high chance of drier-than-average conditions. If correct, it will be the fifth consecutive failed rainy season.

Gardeners in the UK have told BBC News that high temperatures and low rainfall have seen more exotic items - such as figs and avocados - grown in the country.

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2. US to spend more than $500 billion on climate, study says

The US government will spend more than $500 billion on climate technology and clean energy over the next decade under three recently enacted laws, an analysis by non-profit RMI found.

The tally is based on this month's Inflation Reduction and CHIPS acts and last year's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Collectively they fund climate change related research and pilot studies and support manufacturing.

"Together they form a coherent green industrial policy, in the sense that there are strategic industries that they focus on and a set of tools designed to accelerate production up and down the supply chain," said Lachlan Carey, co-author of the report, published on 22 August.

US historic investment federal climate change spending
How US climate spending has grown in recent years. Image: RMI

3. Europe: Climate change has clear impact on inflation

The European Central Bank needs to take climate change into account when making decisions as it has a clear impact, especially on inflation, the chief of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, said in an interview published on 25 August.

"If more and more climate disasters, droughts and famines occur throughout the world, there will be repercussions on prices, on insurance premiums and on the financial sector," said Lagarde in an interview with Madame Figaro. "We need to take that into account."

She also said that she could imagine that different environmental, social and governance standards will be harmonised and tightened rather quickly.

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