Human lives and infrastructure are not the only things lost to changing systems and hazards, which can wreak havoc on the natural world. Many species lose their habitats and attempt to adapt or move to new areas. In either case, survival is not guaranteed. As systems reach tipping points we risk losing species, but also, pushing a system past its limits also goes hand in hand with irreversible environmental change or degradation. Impacts on ecosystems also reduce our resilience by affecting the ecosystem services provisioning such as protection from natural hazards, food and water provision, and the support of biodiversity.
A chain reaction to ecosystem collapse
Draining our water, risking our food supply
Running on thin ice
Living in the unliveable
In summer 2021, air temperatures in Canada broke records multiple days in a row as a powerful heatwave spread over the Pacific Northwest, registering over 600 heat-related deaths and setting an all-time high-temperature record for the country at 49.6°C (121.3°F).
Lagos faces increasingly severe annual flooding, exacerbated by sea level rise and subsidence. In 2021, floods again submerged vehicles and houses, displacing thousands from their homes.
In summer 2021, drought and low humidity combined with record-breaking heat of up to 48.8°C (119.8°F) led to fire outbreaks across the Mediterranean countries, killing more than 100 people and burning more than 620,000 ha of land in July and August
On 15 January 2022, the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano eruption was felt across the Pacific Ocean and beyond, releasing energy equivalent to hundreds of Hiroshima nuclear explosions and creating supersonic air pressure waves that were observed from space.
The vaquita is a species of porpoise on the brink of extinction with less than 10 individuals estimated to be left in the wild. Although not commercially targeted, the vaquita is collateral damage in an ongoing conflict between fishers, government and international illegal trade.
In 2020 alone, an area of the Amazon forest burnt down that was larger than Fiji. While fire is often a natural process to manage vegetation, 9 out of 10 of the Amazon fires in 2020 were intentionally set to convert tropical rainforest into commercially used land.
In 2020, the Arctic had the second-highest air temperatures and second-lowest area of sea ice coverage on record. Temperatures reached 38.0°C in Verkhoyansk, provisionally the highest known temperature anywhere north of the Arctic Circle.
Chinese Paddlefish have been around for an estimated 200 million years, but were declared extinct in 2020. While overfishing and pollution played an accelerating role, much of its demise can be attributed to the multiple dam constructions on the Yangtze River.
On 20 May 2020, Super Cyclone Amphan hit the Sundarbans region bordering India and Bangladesh as a Category 5 storm, with wind speeds over 260 km/h, killing over 100 people and displacing over 4.9 million.
Between 2019 and 2021, swarms of desert locusts formed and spread across 23 countries on multiple continents, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya. They devoured their weight in vegetation every day. One mega-swarm alone, measured in Kenya in 2020, was the size of the country of Luxembourg.
During summer 2020, around 2,300 km of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was affected by a record mass bleaching event where corals expel their algae and turn white. Over 25% of the Great Barrier Reef suffered severe bleaching, seriously threatening them with extinction.
From 11 to 20 February 2021, a powerful cold wave swept across North America. In Texas, the freezing temperatures killed at least 210 people and caused the power grid to fail, leaving 3.5 million people without electricity and heat.