We’re only a few months into 2023 and climate change is already hard at work, with extreme weather events hitting headlines and costing lives and livelihoods all around the world. 

We've already seen a record-breaking cyclone in south-eastern Africa, wildfires in Chile, unbearable heatwaves across Asia, powerful ice storms in the southern United States, and more, highlighting what we all already know to be true: climate change is happening here and now. 

What's more, things are slated to get worse. In the most recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in March, environmental experts predict that at our current rate of collective inaction against the climate crisis, the world could be facing 1.5°C temperature rise by the beginning of the 2030s. As such, extreme weather events would increase in frequency and strength. 

"Extreme heat events are more extreme than ever," Stephanie Herring, scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told NPR. "Research is showing they're likely to become the new normal in the not so distant future."

Herring, along with other scientists at the American Meteorological Society (AMS), also released a report on the confirmed frequency of extreme weather earlier this year.

In short, it’s not looking good, and if we're going to avoid the predictions, we need to step up and take action against climate change. That means individual action in our own lives to reduce our own carbon footprints but, most importantly, it means calling on world leaders and business leaders to listen to the science and deliver the urgent, widespread, and ambitious reform needed to fight climate change — through cutting carbon emissions, delivering a just transition to clean energy, and ensuring the most climate-vulnerable countries can withstand ever-more-frequent natural disasters. 

You can join Global Citizens around the world in taking action to urge world and business leaders to do just this, but taking action to support our Power Our Planet campaign. The campaign is a rallying cry on world leaders, multilateral development banks, philanthropists, and private sector leaders to make ambitious commitments to unlock critical funding, invest in the green transition, and increase support for the poorest countries. Find out more here about the Power Our Planet campaign and how you can take action to help

The following photos show just how bad extreme weather has been in the first few months of the year — highlighting why climate action in 2023 must be non-negotiable.

South Sudan: Floods

Village underwater in South Sudan

Village underwater in South Sudan
Flooded villages in Bentiu, South Sudan, submerged with flood waters.
Courtesy of Mercy Corps South Sudan.

Temporary shelter for flood victims in South Sudan's Bentiu.

Temporary shelter for flood victims in South Sudan's Bentiu.
Current dwelling of host communities displaced by flood waters in South Sudan.
Courtesy of Mercy Corps South Sudan.

South Sudan has been experiencing an unprecedented phenomenon, with the country seeing its fourth year of historic flooding in 2023, impacting around a million people. The country hasn't seen a dry season in almost half a decade and around 47,700 km² of the region remains underwater — to help put that in perspective, the total area of London is 1,583 km².

"Floodwaters in Unity State have rendered all roads impassable, making basic necessities such as food, clean water, and health care, as well as life saving humanitarian aid, difficult to access,” said Mercy Gichuhi, Country Director for Mercy Corps in South Sudan.

UNHCR spokesperson Charlotte Hallqvist said: "There is no sign of the water receding. We are seeing a permanent climate change, permanent climate displacements." 

Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar & Zimbabwe: Cyclone Freddy

A man wades through a flooded river caused by last week’s heavy rains caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy in Phalombe, southern Malawi Saturday, March 18, 2023. Authorities are still getting to grips with destruction in Malawi and Mozambique with over 370 people confirmed dead and several hundreds still displaced or missing.
Image: AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi

For over a month, between Feb. 6 and March 15, a cyclone ravaged the south-eastern parts of Africa, affecting Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe; killing over 1,000 people and leaving half a million people displaced.

The cyclone was so intense it broke the global record for the most accumulated cyclone energy, and set a new record for the longest-running cyclone in history. Along with the infrastructure devastated by the storm, it also washed away water and sanitation facilities, and fuelled a spread of cholera that was already plaguing Malawi ahead of the cyclone. 

Asia: Heatwave

In the middle of April a heatwave swept over China, India, Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, and more countries across the Asian continent, with temperatures ranging from 38 degrees to 45 degrees Celsius — breaking temperature records in over a dozen countries.

Speaking to the Guardian, Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist and weather historian, called the extreme heat the “worst April heatwave in Asian history”. The extreme heat continues in the country, with schools and businesses closing in order to protect citizens from the heat, amid deaths in India and Thailand

Deepshikha Sharma, a climate and environment specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), said: "Human-induced climate change is the major cause of the growing number and ferocity of heatwaves we're seeing across Asia... These signal to the fact that the climate emergency is here for this region." 

Meanwhile, scientists are warning that the heatwave is merely a "warning sign" of extreme weather likely to come this summer. 

"All climate models show that these spikes in heat are going to increase in frequency and intensity across South Asia," said Abid Hussain, senior economist and food systems specialist at ICIMOD. "Such heatwaves will impact 2 billion people either directly, in terms of heat impacts on health and work, or indirectly in terms of glacier melt, floods, water variability, erratic rainfall, and landslides." 

Chile: Forest Fires

Volunteers carry supplies for firefighters near trees burning in Puren, Chile, late Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, as forest fires spread in southern and central Chile, triggering evacuations and the declaration of a state of emergency in some regions.
Image: AP Photo/Matias Delacroix

Chile has been experiencing a decade’s worth of extreme dry weather, which has led to what experts have called a “mega drought”. Record summer temperatures topping 40C (104F), accompanied by strong winds, sparked one of the deadliest wildfires in the country’s history in February this year.

The flames devoured an estimated 270,000 hectares (667,000 acres) of land, destroyed hundreds of homes, killed 24 people, and prompted a state of emergency being declared in three regions. 

Chile's interior minister Carolina Tohá said at the time: "The thermometer has reached points that we have never known until now." 

"The evolution of climate change shows us again and again that this has a centrality and a capacity to cause an impact that we have to internalize much more," Tohá continued. "Chile is one of the countries with the highest vulnerability to climate change, and this isn't theory but rather practical experience."

Texas, USA: Ice Storm

A tree blocks a neighborhood road in northwest Austin, Texas, on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ice from a recent winter storm in the Austin Area topple many trees and left thousands without power.
Image: AP Photo/Nell Carroll

Almost 40 million people were put under a winter weather alert across the southern-central United States in late January and early February this year, as a winter storm swept states from Tennessee to Texas

The impacts of the storm killed at least 10 people, forced closures of schools and health care facilities, damaged homes, halted businesses, and left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity for days. 

São Paulo: Floods & Landslides

Rescue workers search for survivors after flooding triggered deadly landslides near Juquehy beach in Sao Sebastiao, Brazil, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023.
Image: AP Photo/Andre Penner

In the midst of Brazil’s Carnival season in February, the south-eastern state São Paulo and surrounding areas experienced heavy rainfall that resulted in floods and landslides and cost the lives of 48 people. The state faced at least 600mm (23.6 inches) of rain — reported by the Guardian to be the highest cumulative figure ever in the country.

In the days following the floods and landslides, people left homeless had to find shelter in churches and schools, while rescue groups searched for survivors and attempted to make sure essential supplies like food, water, and hygiene kits reached those in need — made even more difficult by landslides blocking roads to isolated areas. A statement released by the Governor of São Paulo said that the “rain in the cities of the North Coast of São Paulo was the highest recorded in Brazil’s history.” 

Rwanda: Floods & Landslides

People walk and ride through floodwaters in Karongi District, western Rwanda, Wednesday, May 3, 2023. Torrential rains caused flooding in western and northern Rwanda, killing more than 100 people, a public broadcaster said Wednesday.
Image: AP Photo

Heavy rains at the beginning of May have caused floods and landslides in Rwanda's northern and western provinces, devastating farmland and businesses, killing more than 120 people, and leaving many more homeless and in urgent need of assistance — while the Rwanda Meteorology Agency has warned more rain is coming

With rescue operations still underway, people still trapped in their homes, and floodwaters continuing to rise, it's expected that the death toll will continue to increase. The BBC has reported that this is the worst flooding Rwanda has seen since May 2020.

The rains and flooding are also impacting neighboring countries, including Uganda, where the Red Cross has said six people have been killed by landslides. 

While it's important to show the impact of the climate crisis and why we must take urgent action to tackle it, it can also lead to the growing issue of climate anxiety. You can read more here from activists and mental health experts on how to tackle climate fears and build resilience


Defend the Planet

Shocking Photos of Extreme Weather Around the World in 2023 So Far

By Khanyi Mlaba