Life stories Science stories

A series of unfortunate events on account of climate change

It’s one of the most common phrases of the 21st century, with scientists having warned us about it way before that. With each new publication from the IPCC, from the First assessment report, to the most recent one, the volume of alarm bells keep increasing. The wording itself has changed, becoming more and more intense and urgent, going from this level of uncertainty:

If the large scale weather regimes, for instance depression tracks or anticyclones, shift their position, this would effect the variability and extremes of weather at a particular location, and could have a major effect. However, we do not know if, or in what way, this will happen.

IPCC FAR, 1990, image by Gagaz Adam on

to this level of confidence:

It is very likely that heavy precipitation events will intensify and become more frequent in most regions with additional global warming. At the global scale, extreme daily precipitation events are projected to intensify by about 7% for each 1°C of global warming (high confidence). The proportion of intense tropical cyclones (categories 4-5) and peak wind speeds of the most intense tropical cyclones are projected to increase at the global scale with increasing global warming (high confidence).

IPCC Summary for Policymakers in Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis., 2021, image by Aline Nadai on

If you have been keeping up with the IPCC (or even the BBC), are not a conspiracy theorist and live on planet earth, you most probably believe that climate change is happening because of anthropogenic activity, and have also lived its consequences in real time. Although a range of consequences was expected, some I did not see coming. The below are a mixture of personal experience and global phenomena.

The cacti have died

Not the herbs, the aromatics or other susceptible plants. The cacti. They either dry up because apparently they need extra watering during two summer months of a constant heatwave, or rot, because apparently the extra watering to revive the (still) alive ones, shocks them.

The walls have cracked

On some level, this is expected for any construction, but heatwaves expedite the process. It’s not just the walls of buildings; thawed soil or increased volcanic activity can cause cracks on roads and shifts in the foundations of buildings. Pot holes and crumbled houses ensue.

The beer hasn’t been fermented

The production line of Belgian beers that are created through spontaneous fermentation (i.e. the beer is left exposed to wild yeasts in air during fall) goes on pause, on account of high temperatures that would have ruined the beer. Sad news for beer craftsmen.

The sea creatures are boiled

This past summer, a heatwave in British Columbia, Canada, lead to the demise of millions of sea creatures, including mussels, clams and fish. In a world without air conditioning, that could be us.

The sneezes have increased

People with allergies know about the spring sneezes; as time passes and global warming worsens, seasons shift and pollen is released in the atmosphere sooner than expected. Allergy season just keeps getting prolonged.

The intellect has gone

Heatwaves make us dumber; our cognitive functions are not operating at their best, our productivity decreases and we spend the day thinking what type of brain eating bacteria we may have acquired, making us feel so slow. Even single-celled protists inhabiting the oceans reduce their activity by up to 80% under high temperatures; slow summers are not our fault.

The sex has changed

Sex change has been observed in animals other than humans, for the time being, with temperatures determining whether an offspring is born male or female. For turtles that hatch in the sand, cooler temperatures favour males, whereas the females are born in the heat. At some point, a population can be overcrowded by one of the sexes, making reproduction and species survival a very difficult, if not impossible, task.

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