Violent weather has become one of the hallmarks of modern life as climate change pushes our planet into a new, more volatile state. And unfortunately, 2019 was a painful reminder of that.
Severe storms, wildfires, and cyclones have left communities around the world to deal with damage that could, at least in some cases, never be undone. The destructive weather of 2019 also revealed the yawning chasm between how the rich and poor experience the impacts of climate change.
While some wealthier countries were hit hard by weather disasters—the U.S., for example, saw multibillion-dollar crop losses and infrastructure damage due to spring flooding, and some farmers are still digging out—poorer countries bore a disproportionate burden. Mozambique’s subsistence farmers were in a harder spot than their American counterparts before twin cyclone struck this year. In the months since, they haven’t had nearly the level of assistance as impacted Americans, and food insecurity has spread throughout the country. Without international assistance, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network forecast shows Mozambique would be facing emergency or crisis-level food insecurity levels, the latter just a step below famine.
This isn’t to say American farmers who lost everything or families that lost a relative in the recent European heat waves made out good. Extreme weather—and by extension, climate change—means we all suffer. What 2019 showed is that nobody can escape. With the dawn of a new decade, we have a lot of work to do to ensure we prepare for and respond to our increasingly dangerous weather in ways that are just.