Are floods, fires in Turkey caused by global warming? Should we brace ourselves for the worst?
As I watched footage from Turkey’s Bozkurt district of Kastamonu, I felt my heart drop.
These were scary scenes indeed.
In one of them, a man trying to rescue his vehicle in the middle of the road makes a run for it when all his efforts fail.
But he couldn’t make it, and instead he’s washed away in the floodwaters.
In separate footage, floodwaters gush out of the stream bed and plunge into the city when logs dragged by the waters reach a bridge and block the flow.
This is how disasters unfold, unfortunately.
(For your information, waters up to one’s heels are not as harmless as they may seem. It can easily drag a person away.
When water levels rise a little higher, they can be powerful enough to even wash away an elephant.)
The disasters we witnessed in Turkey’s Kastamonu, Sinop, and Bartın provinces followed wildfires that were raging in the south.
Before that, we were still recovering from the flooding disaster in the Eastern Black Sea Region.
When these disasters occur in swift succession, questions, one after the other, begin to flood the mind.
What is it we are experiencing?
Is the worst still yet to come?
What kind of link should be established between global warming and these events?
It's time to extend the microphone to environmental and climate experts.
Prof. Mustafa Ozturk is one of the experts considered to be an authority on environmental issues in Turkey.
I conducted a mini Q&A with him about the disasters the country has experienced and the links, if any, between them and global warming.
Would it be correct to directly link these fires and floods to global warming?
Such events do occur in nature, but they transpire once every 40 years. Due to global warming, the Earth's temperature has warmed by 1 degree. In some regions, this has reached one-and-a-half degrees.
Due to the impact of global warming, these cases are becoming more frequent, more severe, more devastating, and have worse consequences.
The question is, is Turkey a country that is more vulnerable to global warming than other countries?
Turkey is one of the countries that will be most impacted by climate change. These days, we always talk about forest fires and floods, but the soil is drying up in Southeast and Central Anatolia. The drought has reached serious proportions. Surface water resources are drying up. More than 50,000 lakes, ponds, and dams are gone. Even HEPPs (Hydroelectric Power Plants) will be at risk in the future. If the effect of global warming manifests itself, surface water will evaporate at a faster rate. As it evaporates, its environmental impacts will be more severe.
(Öztürk here moves on to talk about a strange incident in Canada)
Due to the scorching heatwaves, temperatures rose to 55 °C in an area of Canada with an average temperature of 10.15 °C. In other words, a heatwave covered the region like a black cloud. A thousand people died.
As heatwaves continue, they are drying up forests and grass. After Canada, the same happened in the U.S. Belgium and Germany were next. Greece and Spain followed. Then it took the shape of wildfires in Turkey.
Why is Turkey vulnerable to these?
The heatwaves emanating from Africa will greatly impact Turkey. It's in the reports. The desert climate hailing from Africa will particularly affect the Mediterranean region and Southeastern Anatolia. The U.S. was the country with the highest greenhouse gas emissions. Now it's China, it's the European Union, it's other countries. Turkey is one of the countries most affected by global warming even though it does not emit greenhouse gases.
Are greenhouse gas emissions the main cause of climate change?
There are gases that we call greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, methane gas. These absorb the rays coming from the sun. As it gets absorbed, it causes the earth to heat up more. Before industrialization, this was 280 units. Now it's up to 417. The sun says, “I am warming the earth. Reduce carbon dioxide and methane gas. If you don't, you will be in trouble in the future.”
What is the solution to this problem?
First, we definitely need to switch to hydrogen energy. We need to develop our hydrogen production technology in Turkey. The U.S. has already embraced the shift. On buses, trains, and ships. Germany, for example, started with trains. You will produce hydrogen gas. You're going to set aside fossil fuels.
The second is electric vehicles. When we think of electric vehicles, we all think of lithium. No, there are dozens of charging methods. Turkey should familiarize itself with this technology and develop it.
Hydrogen and electrical energy will be used. Electricity will be generated from renewable energy.