The Most Striking Climate Crisis Pictures of 2021
A woman leaves her home amid forest fires in Evia, Greece. Photo: Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg via Getty Images

15 Bleak Photos From 2021 That Sum Up the World’s Climate Crisis

Wildfires, droughts, flooding, toxic rivers, and more wildfires. Here are the pictures that captured a year of extreme weather events, which scientists have tied the number and intensity of to climate change.

In 2021, the world experienced a multitude of extreme weather events, from unprecedented floods to terrifying wildfires. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has tied the increasing number and intensity of weather events to climate change, warning that rising CO2 emissions will only increase the number of natural disasters. While these events cause damage and often death, they also lead to a mass movement of people fleeing to safer surroundings. 

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At the UN's climate summit COP26, countries agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to allow no more than a 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures. Countries also agreed to a “phase down” of coal power, though many activists were disappointed that this was changed from “phase out” in the final agreement. 

Wildfires in Greece

Greece experienced the worst forest fires the country had seen since 2007, after record-breaking temperatures and strong winds caused fires to destroy homes and crops, killing three. The World Meteorological Organisation linked the fires directly with global warming. 

A man looks on as fires approach the village of Pefki in Evia, in August. Photo: ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images

A man looks on as fires approach the village of Pefki in Evia, in August. Photo: ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images

Droughts in Turkey

A lack of rainfall in Turkey this year saw extreme droughts threaten the livelihoods of farmers across agricultural lands, such as in southeastern Anatolia. 

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A shepherd leads his flock across drought-striken planes. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

Toxic foam in the Yamuna River, Delhi

This highly polluted river in Delhi became covered in a snow-like foam in November as a result of “heavy sewage and industrial waste” according to the government. For years authorities have promised to clean the river but have failed to do so. 

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People bathe in one of the most polluted rivers in India. Photo: Sajjad Hussain / AFP via Getty + Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times via Getty

Rubbish floating in Lim River near the city of Priboj, Serbia

Heavy rains in January meant failing waste systems near the city of Priboj flooded Serbia’s rivers with waste. 

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Waste in the Lim River. Photo: Vladimir Zivojinovic/AFP via Getty Images.

Kenyan drought

A prolonged drought in the north east of Kenya this December caused the death of livestock and threatened agricultural communities. The area has received a third of normal rainfall since September. 

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Six giraffes lie dead on the outskirts of Eyrib village in Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy. Photo by Ed Ram/Getty Images

German and Belgium Floods

Rainfall and melting snow in the Eifel mountain region of western Germany and eastern Belgium destroyed thousands of homes and killed 200 people. 

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A train passes through a flooded area in Nidderau near Frankfurt, Germany. AP Photo/Michael Probst.

Mass migration across the world

Climate disasters across the world as well as political unrest have forced the mass movement of people to more stable ground, often seeking asylum in Europe and facing increasingly hostile governments. 

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A migrant is comforted by a member of the Spanish Red Cross. AP Photo/Bernat Armangue.

Drought in Colombia

In February, climate change caused extensive droughts which led to the drying up of lakes like Lake Suesca in Colombia.

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A dried out Lake Suesca in Colombia. AP Photo/Fernando Vergara.

Fires in California

Greece wasn’t the only place to be hit with extensive wildfires this year. In July and August, California faced another year of forest fires, burning 2,569,009 acres and killing three people.

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An idle chairlift at Sierra-at Tahoe ski resort in California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Russia was somehow also on fire

Russia’s fires dwarfed all other fires across the world this year, with wildfires in Siberia emitting seven times as much CO2 as wildfires in the US.

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A firefighter working on fires in the village of Kuel in Yakutia, Sakha, Russia. Photo by Ivan Nikiforov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.


Hurricane Ida

In Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, Category 4 Hurricane Ida decimated homes in an area already heavily impacted by COVID. 

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A man wipes sweat from his eyes after his home was destroyed by Hurricane Ida. AP Photo/John Locher

COP26

This year, climate activists protested in the hope of forcing global leaders to act on climate change at COP26. In the end, many were disappointed with the resulting agreement.

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Activists at COP26 protest ocean pollution. Photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant.

Pink Lake in Argentina

In July, a lagoon in the Patagonian province of Chubut, Argentina turned bright pink as a result of dumped chemical waste – specifically sodium sulfite, an antibacterial product used in the fishing industry. 

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The Corfo lagoon in Argentine, pink from pollution. AP Photo/Daniel Feldman.

Chile’s mountain of clothes

An estimated 39,000 tonnes of unsold clothes from the US and UK ended up dumped in the Atacama desert in Chile.

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Piles of clothes dumped in the desert in Chile. Photo: Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images.