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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Drought in Colombia
In February, climate change caused extensive droughts which led to the drying up of lakes like Lake Suesca in Colombia.
Fires in California
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.
In Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, Category 4 Hurricane Ida decimated homes in an area already heavily impacted by COVID.
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.
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.
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.