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Climate change witnesses describe evolving weather impacts

December 7, 2023

Our planet is heating up and many people are experiencing the climate crisis firsthand. DW asked people around the world how rising temperatures have altered their lives.

A person lies in the shade holding a fan and a phone
Heat waves are just one of the impacts of global warming observed by climate witnesses Image: Andy Wong/AP Photo/picture alliance

The climate is changing. Temperatures have risen an average of 1.2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial age — due in most part to the burning of fossil fuels that release planet-heating greenhouse gases

But how is the resulting climate change making itself felt in everyday life? 

DW spoke to people across some of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world to understand how they are being impacted.

Northern Alaska: Snow much later, says Utquiagvik resident

How I remember it in the past, like 20 years ago, it would start snowing before school because school would start the second week of August and then the kids would start walking to school in the snow. But now look!

A person in a jacket with an orange hood speaks into a DW microphone
A female resident from Utquiagvik near the North Pole says there is much less snowImage: DW

Colombia: Alfonso Florez, 64, notes worsening drought

There is a connection between drought and electricity because Colombia gets a huge part of its electric energy from hydroelectric power stations. And when they [reservoirs and dams] dry out, there is no more power. There is no other way to get power.

We are totally depending on water to produce power. And if the reservoirs dry out then we will be left without energy.

A man wearing glasses and a blue jacket holds his fingers together
Alfonso Florez, a philosophy professor, fears drought due to its impacts on energy supplies in ColombiaImage: DW

South Africa: Magqabi Buka, 80, remembers seasons in South Africa

The weather changed. I mean it changed because now there are no longer seasons like before. 

We used to have summer [and] winter, yes. But now we don't have that anymore. It's just one season throughout the year.

A man wearing a cardigan stands in a park
For Magqabi Buka, climate change has wiped out the seasonsImage: DW

Austria: Retired woman Susanne Schulze recalls ice and snow that is no more

Just outside Vienna, there's the Hohe Wand grassland with a ski lift where I used to go skiing with my children. And that's definitely no longer possible.

And the old Danube [river] used to freeze over, we could ice skate there, and now it's just too hot. Also here, you're longing for rain. I used to always look forward to nice weather. And now I'm careful when I say: 'Why isn't the sun shining today?'

I'm almost happy when it rains. What is bad weather? It's almost as if bad weather is sunshine!

A person with gray hair wears a gray and green stripped shirt
Susanne Schulze reminisces about the days when she could ski locallyImage: DW

Indonesia: Toni Cahyono, 70, says heat is becoming more extreme

The heat is unbelievable, especially lately. This is probably because of the El Nino effect, I think.

If you want to go out during the day, you don't have the energy for it.

A person wearing a black beret and wearing long dark hair smiles for the camera
Toni Cahyono says his region of Indonesia is much hotter than in the pastImage: DW

India: Fisherman Sadashiv Gopal Raje experiences rising heat in his village near Mumbai

In my childhood days, our village had so many coconut plantations, and there was open space and a breeze and no pollution.

Due to climate change, we now use AC (air conditioners), which was not required back then. The cool breeze was enough, electricity was saved, and we could sleep in our homes without a fan.

Now due to this climate change, we need to install fans and air conditioners.

a man in a pinkish collared shirt and glasses is background by people and flags
Sadashiv Gopal Raje could once rely on the breeze for coolingImage: DW

India: Pravin Choudhury, 50, remembers a much shorter monsoon

We have seen changes in our time. When I was maybe 15,16 years of age, we used to see the rain start on the 7th or 8th of June, and it ended closer to the end of July or the first week of August.

But now we see these rains start in the middle of June and they continue to the end of September. This is definitely a big change we have seen which has come with a lot of issues.

The rain is much longer and brings too many changes in our life. The humidity is increasing, the temperatures are raising up, which is affecting our day-to-day life.

 Edited by: Tamsin Walker

The interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

A man in a white shirt stands on a beach
Pravin Choudhury works for an environmental NGOImage: DW
Portrait of a woman (Jeannette Cwienk) with blonde hair and wearing a scarf and gray blazer
Jeannette Cwienk Writer and editor with a focus on climate and environmental issues