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Photos Show A Year Of Catastrophic Events Due To Climate Change

We looked back at the year in climate change and the disasters we'll be seeing more often as our world is altered by climate-polluting fossil fuels.

Posted on December 28, 2021, at 5:52 p.m. ET

If you think that the pandemic is dragging on forever, prepare yourself for our climate change future. This year felt like one major disaster followed on the heels of another, with heat waves, hurricanes, fires, floods, and freezing weather all contributing to a deadly year — and the death toll has been alarmingly undercounted. Concerns over resources, particularly water, are mounting as drought in the West continues. Action from the government to address climate change remains stalled and limited.

We looked back at the year in climate change and the disasters that are getting worse and more frequent as our world is altered by climate-polluting fossil fuels.

a woman holds a dog in front of a fence with fire behind her
Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP via Getty Images

A woman holds a dog in her arms as forest fires approach the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea), Greece's second-largest island, on Aug. 8, 2021.

Two men maneuver a boat through water in front of a three-story house during flooding
Brandon Bell / Getty Images

People wade through water on Aug. 31, 2021, in Barataria, Louisiana. Ida made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 29 in Louisiana and brought flooding and wind damage along the Gulf Coast.

A car drives through a desolate desert area
Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

Barren fields once sown with row crops are seen, July 23, 2021, on a farm in the town of Huron, California, in the drought-stricken Central Valley. Before the drought, the fields were sown with hemp or garlic crops, but as a result of California's water restrictions, the farm decided not to plant.

One man holds a camera while another man holds a microphone in a flood zone, with a bench and a recycling bin
Michael Democker / Reuters

A news crew films as a storm surge pushes water from Lake Pontchartrain over Lakeshore Drive as the effects of Hurricane Ida begin to be felt in New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2021.

Cows stand in a hut with flooding all around them
AFP via Getty Images

Cows stand in a shed at an overflooded meadow in Kaprun, in the Austrian Alps, on July 19, 2021.

A man in a straw hat wipes his neck
Nathan Howard / AP

A farmworker, who declined to give his name, wipes sweat from his neck while working, July 1, 2021, in St. Paul, Oregon, as a heat wave baked the Pacific Northwest in record-high temperatures. Another farmworker died in St. Paul this year due to heat exposure on the job.

people sleep on air mats on the floor of a convention center in oregon
Kathryn Elsesser / AFP via Getty Images

People rest at the Oregon Convention Center cooling station in Portland, Oregon, on June 28, 2021, as a heat wave moved over much of the United States. Swaths of the United States and Canada endured record-setting heat in June, forcing schools and COVID-19 testing centers to close and the postponement of an Olympic athletics qualifying event, with forecasters warning of worse to come.

A ski lift with a giant wildfire behind it
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A chairlift at Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort sits idle as the Caldor fire moves through the area on Aug. 30, 2021, in Twin Bridges, California.

A man holds a helmet that says mora next to a truck with coolers and a fire raging behind him
Noah Berger / AP

Battalion Chief Sergio Mora watches as the Dixie fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, California, on Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.

A town destroyed by fire with burned houses and a burned truck in the foreground
Noah Berger / AP

This photo shows cars and homes destroyed by the Dixie fire in central Greenville on Aug. 5, 2021, in Plumas County, California.

A woman sits outside a trailer holding her pug and wearing Birkenstocks with a truck behind her
Cole Burston / AFP via Getty Images

Christine Abbott with her dog Spudz camps just outside of Lytton, British Columbia, on Sept. 3, 2021, after a wildfire destroyed their home this summer. Lytton, located 155 miles northeast of Vancouver, gained international attention for setting a new Canadian heat record of 121.3 Fahrenheit before being ravaged days later by a fire that killed at least two residents.

protestors pack the street outside COP26
Hannah Mckay / Reuters

People attend a protest as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 6, 2021.

Bryan Olin Dozier / Associated Press

Around 100 youth demonstrators perform in a "die-in" action near the US Capitol on Sept. 24, 2021, as part of a global day of strikes organized by several groups to put pressure on elected officials to address the climate change crisis.

Tim Evans / Associated Press

Tania Aubid, a longstanding activist and member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, speaks to protesters in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Jan. 29, 2021, about the environmental and human risks of allowing the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline to be built across northern Minnesota.

A woman in a mask and apron holds an umbrella with a mudslide behind her
Charly Triballeau / AFP via Getty Images

A resident stands near mud and debris at the scene of a landslide following days of heavy rain in Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, on July 3, 2021.

An aerial shot of a german village flooded with brown water with houses and trees above it
Picture Alliance / dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

A village is flooded by the high water of the Kyll river in Rhineland-Palatinate, Kordel, Germany, on July 15, 2021.

A man kayaks on a flooded roadway while a group of people watch
Branden Eastwood / AFP via Getty Images

A kayaker paddles down a portion of Interstate 676 after flooding from heavy rains from Hurricane Ida in Philadelphia on Sept. 2, 2021. Flash flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida killed at least 44 people in four northeastern US states, including several who perished in basements during the historic weather event officials blamed on climate change.

A woman takes a cellphone photo of a flooded street from an overpass bridge
Matt Rourke / AP

A person takes a photo of the Schuylkill River after it flooded the Manayunk section of Philadelphia in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida on Sept. 2, 2021. As weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable due to climate change, transit officials say that more needs to be done to prepare the East Coast's vital transit systems.

A man works on a computer outside the home as relatives sit and stand behind him with their house in the background
Bobby Caina Calvan / AP

Amit Shivprasad, foreground, works outside his family home in the Queens borough of New York, Sept. 17, 2021. He and his parents had been living with a relative since floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Ida made their home inhospitable. Flooding collapsed part of a basement wall, allowing water to gush into a basement apartment where a woman and her grown son died.

A frontal view of a house with flood damage and a couch poking through a broken window
Andrew Nelles / AP

Flood damage is seen in Waverly, Tennessee, Aug. 22, 2021. Catastrophic flooding in middle Tennessee left multiple people dead and dozens missing as record-shattering rainfall washed away homes and rural roads.

A flattened neighborhood with destroyed houses among foundations of other homes, with smashed cars pointing in different directions
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An aerial view of damaged houses after devastating tornadoes in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Dec. 15, 2021. Researchers are continuing to study potential links between tornadoes and climate change.

A river snakes through some rocks on Lake Powell with two stripes in the rock showing the high water mark
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

In this aerial view, the tall bleached "bathtub ring" is visible on the rocky banks of Lake Powell on June 24, 2021, in Page, Arizona. Lake Powell is currently at 34.56% of capacity, a historic low. The lake stands at 138.91 feet below full pool and has dropped 44 feet in the past year.

A giant green circle alongside a desert land with three houses in the distance
Caitlin Ochs For Buzzfeed News

Aerial view of large-scale irrigation operations in Cochise County, Arizona.

Two women guide a hose from a water truck filling up a dirt pool
Brian Inganga / AP

Rangers from the Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy supply water from a tanker for wild animals in the conservancy in Wajir County, Kenya, Oct. 26, 2021. As world leaders address a global climate summit in Britain, drought had descended yet again in northern Kenya, the latest in a series of climate shocks rippling through the Horn of Africa.









A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.