HEAVIER rainfall, fiercer storms and intensifying droughts are likely to strike the world in the coming decades as climate change takes effect.
It is clear that as the climate changes, so does the weather.
Extreme weather phenomena include unseasonal or severe weather and it is interesting to know that extreme weather events are rare, which means there are few data available to make assessments regarding changes in their frequency or intensity, and thus, the more difficult it is to identify long-term changes.
In Fiji, however, the effects have been felt over the last few years.
This year, we have been affected by two catastrophic flooding events already, along with two tropical cyclones (TC), TC Jasmine (in February) and TC Daphne this month which also formed close to Fiji but luckily did not have any direct impact on the region.
How climate change relates to these events is well explained by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who stated an increase in the average global temperature is very likely to lead to changes in precipitation and atmospheric moisture because of changes in atmospheric circulation and increases in evaporation and water vapour.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are likely to become more intense, produce stronger peak winds, and produce increased rainfall over some areas due to warming sea surface temperatures.
These extreme weather events will eventually prove disastrous for our environment and consequently making it harder for us to sustain ourselves.
The immediate negative health impacts can range from acute trauma and drowning to conditions of unsafe water.
The water supply is cut off or tap water becomes contaminated because of exposure to foul floodwater giving rise to waterborne illnesses, such as typhoid and leptospirosis.
Last Saturday, The Fiji Times reported that leptospirosis had already claimed six lives in the Western Division since last month's flood.
In addition to this, other outbreaks such as dengue fever also come into play along with saltwater intrusion from floodwaters which destroy crops and eventually sources of sustenance and income for farmers' livelihoods.
Emotional trauma is also one of the major implications of extreme weather anomalies such as flash floods and destructive storms.
The feeling of loss, whether it is life or belongings, can linger on for a long time and may actually hinder the process of rebuilding one's life from the wreck caused by such disastrous events.
From people, to their surroundings, and the environment ù extreme weather affects everyone. Last week, about 20 Pacific Island youths convened at the University of the South Pacific for Project Survival Pacific's (PSP) strategy planning day with an aim to map out the kind of sustainable future young people want.
During the planning, Saula Mule, a member of PSP shared that "humans tend to forget that there are other creatures living on Earth, and have all the right to be."
This is a simple yet powerful statement! There are diverse creatures living on this planet and humans ù though the most dominant species ù are just one of them.
The term 'biodiversity' is simply, a variety of life forms. Imagine looking out your window and seeing only coconut trees.
Now that would be boring. Thankfully, we are gifted with a variety of plants of all sizes, shapes and colours and blessed to be living on a tropical paradise.
Extreme weather events cause direct or indirect loss of habitat. Take for example, physical damage to coral reefs by big waves during a cyclone.
This will result in the loss of breeding ground for many marine plants and animals.
All organisms have tolerance ranges and if stressed outside these ranges, death becomes inevitable.
Likewise, a drought would prove disastrous for an organism that lives in wet and cold places.
The weaker species often get eliminated and their role in the ecosystem is then played by more dominant ones.
Many a time there is extirpation or local extinction which sees the total elimination of one species in an area, usually a native one.
"Reducing the risks associated with the impacts of extreme weather and climate variability must be urgently addressed in order to contribute to improving livelihoods, economic wellbeing and health as well as maintaining biodiversity and culture because nowhere in the world is adapting to climate change as urgent and central to safeguarding cultures and economies as it is in the Pacific," says PSP executive director, Krishneil Narayan.
As Earth's climatic conditions change, adverse weather events are likely to increase and the implications will get worse over time.
Weather anomalies are here to stay and whether we like it or not and we need to be prepared for this as time progresses.
Being aware and keeping up to date with what is happening around the globe as well as in our very own country can be the first step we take on this journey of braving the impacts of extreme weather and adapting to the changing climatic conditions to make life easier as we progress towards the future.
* Devika Raj is a climate advocate and a member of Project Survival Pacific. PSP is a regional youth environmental organisation that works to safeguard the survival of the Pacific island people from the impacts of climate change and to promote sustainable development within the Pacific.