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Let's Stop Calling It "Extreme" Weather

As measures to curb climate change move slowly in the face of deadly new weather patterns, we must immediately mitigate the havoc it has begun to cause around the world.

Let's Stop Calling It "Extreme" Weather

In front of the NY Aquarium building in Coney Island, U.S.

Yolanda Ruiz


BOGOTÁ — A street sweeper collapsed in Madrid while working in the afternoon. Hours later, he died from heatstroke. He was working in temperatures of some 40 degrees centigrade. In Colombia, eight people died and 11,000 families were affected by the rains in July. Their intensity has lessened, but it was a long and painful winter for the country. In Mexico, severe drought is killing off more livestock. Luton Airport, north of London, suspended flight operations when a part of its tracks softened in the heat.

Paris declared a red alert for extreme heat, as smoke from surrounding forest fires wafted into the French capital.

In China, a bridge snapped in two from the heat, while health workers fainted in their COVID protection suits. These are just some of the "unusual" reports published in July relating to weather conditions. The climate has already changed and is causing deaths. Avoiding them is now a priority.

It's already happening

The heatwaves that have struck Europe, the United States and China were unprecedented in certain cities that had never experienced 40-degree temperatures, and were thus unprepared. The challenge now is not just to try and curb global warming, but to adapt to and mitigate the impact of what is already happening. If the climate is hitting us, we must react to survive.

The sweeper's death in Madrid reopened debates on work hours for people working outside in extreme temperatures. If these will be the norm, we must take measures to prevent more such deaths.

Countries like Colombia and Mexico, which are either suffering intense rainfall or heat, must also start thinking. Prevention is key: relocating communities, abandoning risky zones, reforestation, preparing for coming rains when it is dry, etc. We must understand that the extreme has become habitual, and there is nowhere to escape this reality. Everyone must adapt.

Smoke rises behind a tourist during a fire in Grunewald, Germany

Kay Nietfeld/dpa/ZUMA

Living with a lethal climate

Another element to consider in our climate conversations is that the weak and vulnerable will suffer the worst. There is a difference between working in an office with air conditioning and sweeping the streets in the mid-summer heat. Hundreds of workers, many of them migrants, live and work in precarious conditions in Europe.

Declarations are longer enough.

It is quite likely they work outside all day and return home to cramped, badly ventilated and overcrowded lodgings in the evening. The most vulnerable people also live in precarious zones in Colombia. The people who once fled violence in the countryside are most likely the same ones losing their homes to a flooding river. Climate change is also social and economic, and adaptation requires resources unavailable to most people.

While the world continues to discuss global warming and take decisions with horrific complacency, its effects are being felt right now, by all creatures including ourselves. The worst of it is that the war in Ukraine will delay many countries' energy transition plans. Oil and coal will continue to be the protagonists for decades more, and the war is making us lose precious transition time.

Declarations are no longer enough. We must act to stop the change, but also adapt and prepare to live in what has already become an erratic, and lethal climate.

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Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen


HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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