July 2021 global news roundup: Deadly signs of extreme weather and climate change

A high tide in Bonn, Germany (Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (July 2021).

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Extreme weather events in Europe, Antarctica, North America, and China dominated headlines. Europe was hit by the worst flooding since World War Two, with at least 200 people dead. Most of the deaths happened in Germany and Belgium, where heavy rains caused burst riverbanks, sewage water surged, and early-warning systems failed. Climate scientists have expressed shock at the scale and intensity of the record-breaking floods.

Record-high temperatures were reported in Antarctica and a heatwave in parts of Canada and the United States (US) also led to temperatures breaking records and affecting utilities. In Canada, an extreme heat wave killed about 500 people and hundreds of millions of marine animals and led to dozens of wildfires. In the US, June 2021 was the warmest June on record. The western part of the country health with its third heatwave this summer, leading to millions to be under excessive heat alerts and the destruction of dozens of buildings due to wildfires.

In China, floods in a dozen cities killed at least 33 people, with many dying after an underground railway tunnel was flooded. The country experienced over one year’s worth of rain in just three days, and scientists have hypothesised that rapid urbanisation had displaced fertile ground for the absorption of water. And in Afghanistan, at least 40 were killed in floods and at least 164 were killed following monsoon rains in India.

Other cases of extreme weather and volatile events – many of which influenced by human-caused climate change – include mudslides, heatwaves and extreme temperatures, wildfires and forest fires, as well as flash floods.

COVID-19 and other global developments

The global death toll of the coronavirus crossed four million. There were further tragedies in Bangladesh and Iraq, where hospital fires killed at least 92 and 80 people respectively. In Japan, Olympics spectators were banned after Tokyo declared a COVID-19 state of emergency, over a spike of virus cases, which will last through the games. The Olympics opened to a stadium of empty seats. Later, the country also extended the state of emergency to four more areas as virus cases spiked around Tokyo amid the Olympics.

Globally, 130 countries signed on to a US-led effort to create a 15 per cent minimum corporate tax rate. Countries need to pass laws and the tax rate could take effect in 2023.

And North and South Korea reopened diplomatic communication hotlines after a hiatus of over 13 months.

Haitian president assassinated

President Jovenel Moïse, who had taken office in 2017, was assassinated at this private residence by professionals posing as officials from the US Drug Enforcement Agency. The late president had been clinging to power and ruling by decree despite the expiration of his term, with protests calling for his resignation, but his death could fuel a cycle of violence. Authorities called on the US to send troops to protect key infrastructure, but the request was turned down.

The acting prime minister who took control of the government immediately after the assassination later stepped down.

Anti-government protests in Cuba and South Africa

In Cuba, thousands of anti-government protestors took to the streets, demonstrating against high prices and food and medicine shortages. COVID-19 has also worsened the country’s economic situation. In South Africa, protests followed the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, with demonstrators upset over persisting hardship and inequality as COVID-19 continues to wreak economic havoc. Unemployment in the first three months of 2021 was 32.6 per cent. At least 72 have died amid ongoing violence and chaotic stampedes and looting.

Political developments in Lebanon, Peru, and Tunisia

In Lebanon, the prime minister-designated gave up on forming a new government, as the country continues to struggle with widespread corruption and an economic crisis. In Peru, a former schoolteacher and union leader was declared the country’s new president. And in Tunisia, the president sought to seize power, in an attempt described as a coup by his opponents but supported by the public. Tunisians have been demonstrating against the ruling party for its poor handling of the pandemic, in the country’s worst political crisis since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Deadly human tragedies around the world

Iraq and Pakistan were struck by terrorist attacks. Air crashes were reported in the Philippines and Sweden, while boats capsized in Indonesia. Fires and explosions affected Bangladesh, Kenya, and Sudan. Finally, a collapsed construction crane was reported in Canada and a partial hotel collapse in China was also reported.

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