In Maui, an entire city was wiped out as fire raged this summer, leaving at least 115 people dead and hundreds missing.
Millions of people in North America were warned about the health risks of poor air quality as toxic smoke from Canada, which is having its worst year on record for forest fires, drifted across the continent.
India, China and Japan have also experienced another climate fallout: flooding and landslides.
In one week in July, Beijing experienced its largest rainfall in 140 years, while in India, as many as 2,038 people have lost their lives to floods, lightning and landslides this year.
According to a report from the UN, there has been a “staggering rise” in the number of extreme weather events over the past 20 years, driven largely by rising global temperatures and other climatic changes.
From 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major natural disasters globally, killing 1.23 million people and resulting in $2.97 trillion in global economic losses. The previous 20-year period recorded 4,212 disasters, claiming 1.19 million lives and causing $1.63 trillion in losses.
Many infectious diseases are climate sensitive and global warming is giving them the opportunity to expand their reach, threatening the lives of millions.
With flooding, population displacement and overcrowding caused by storms and extreme flooding, waterborne infections – such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis – are on the rise.
Milder winters, warmer summers, and fewer days of frost are also making it easier for disease-carrying mosquitoes to roam beyond their habitats, bringing infections like malaria, Zika and dengue fever closer to countries previously out of their reach.
Climate change is also bringing humans into closer contact with disease-carrying animals, such as bats, which are increasingly able to migrate and thrive in areas of the globe they were previously unable to survive.
This increases the risk of ‘spillover events’, in which a pathogen common to a species of animals jumps into the human population and starts spreading – as seen with Covid-19, Sars, Mers, and several other major outbreaks in history.
A warming globe could drive changes in fungi, too. Ordinarily, humans are protected from fungi because of our high body temperature, but as the world warms, fungi are beginning to adapt to higher temperatures, making transmission easier.
Cases of Candida auris, a fungus that was not found in humans anywhere until 2009, nearly doubled in Europe between 2020 and 2021.
In the US, there were 2,377 confirmed clinical cases diagnosed last year – an increase of over 1,200 per cent since 2017.
More generally, hospitalisations involving fungal infections increased 8.5 per cent each year in America from 2019 to 2021.