collapsed road

From floods to forest fires, a warming planet – in pictures

July 17, 2016 — Droughts, floods, forest fires and melting poles – climate change is impacting Earth like never before. From the Australia to Greenland, Ashley Cooper’s work spans 13 years and over 30 countries. This selection, taken from his new book, shows a changing landscape, scarred by pollution and natural disasters – but there is hope too, with the steady rise of renewable energy. 

toxic wasteland
Alberta, Canada: The destructive quest for oil has turned this into a toxic wasteland. Above, dump trucks queue up to load with tar sands.


Manchester, UK: Rush hour traffic on the M60 motorway at sunset. Consumption of one gallon of petrol emits around 10.2kg of C02.


slum area
Suihua, China: Heavy use of coal in a slum in Suihua, Heilongjiang, pumps out smoke into an already highly polluted atmosphere. Rates of heart and lung disease, and breathing difficulties are commonplace in Chinese cities, that are among the most heavily polluted in the world.


sand dunes
Inner Mongolia, China: Creeping desertification with sand dunes spreading across the highway


forest ghost
Forest ghosts: Lake Eildon in Victoria, Australia was built in the 1950’s to provide irrigation water, but the last time it was full was in 1995. The day the shot was taken it was at 29% capacity with levels down around 75ft. The trees that were drowned and killed when the reservoir was first filled now stand well clear of the water.


bush fire aftermath
Forest destroyed by bush fires near Michelago, New South Wales, Australia.


reservoir in australia
Where has all the water gone?: Lake Hume is the largest reservoir in Australia and was set up to provide irrigation water for farms further down the Murray Basin and drinking water for Adelaide. On the day this photograph was taken it was at 19.6% capacity. By the end of the summer of 2009 it dropped to 2.1 % capacity. Such impacts of the drought are likely to worsen as a result of climate change. The last time the water was anywhere near this road bridge was 10 years ago, rendering this no fishing sign, somewhat redundant.


flood waters
A young man cycles through flood waters in Toll Bar, South Yorkshire, UK.


water crisis
A farmer’s sign about the water crisis near Bakersfield in the Central Valley, California, US, with the soil turned to dust. The whole of California is in a catastrophic drought with $2bn annually lost from the agricultural sector.


melting glacier
Scientist Ian Bartholomew uses dye tracing techniques as part of a study to measure the speed of the Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuag in Greenland. The study looks at how increasing quantities of melt water caused by climate change are affecting the glacier’s speed, which has sped up in the last 20 years. Reflective poles were drilled four metres into the ice to measure their speed at various points on the glacier. Within a month all the poles had fallen over as the glacier melted down.


sink hole
A 20 tonne ice explorer truck next to a Moulin, or sink hole for meltwater. Owner, Arngrimur Hermannsson, uses the truck to take tourists on to the Langjokull ice cap. Like all Iceland’s glaciers it is melting rapidly and is predicted to disappear within 100 years. As Arni says, every time I come up here, the glacier has retreated a bit further.


greenland's icebergs
Tourist boat trips sail through icebergs at midnight from the Jacobshavn glacier, Greenland.


dead polar bear
A male polar bear that starved to death as a consequence of climate change. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt their main prey, seals. Western fjords of Svalbard which normally freeze in winter, remained ice free all season during the winter of 2012/13, one of the worst on record for sea ice around the island archipelago. This bear headed hundreds of miles north, looking for suitable sea ice to hunt on before it finally collapsed and died


collapsed coastal road
A collapsed coastal road between Skipsea and Ulrome on Yorkshire’s east coast, UK. This section of coast is composed of soft boulder clays and is the fastest eroding coast in Europe. It has been eroding since Roman times and many villages have disappeared into the sea. Climate change is speeding up the erosion, with sea level rise, increased stormy weather and heavy rainfall events, all playing their part.


wind blades
The huge blades to be used at Walney offshore wind farm in Cumbria, UK. The serrations help to control the air flow over the blade for greater efficiency and extra power.


wind farm
Part of the Tehachapi Pass wind farm, California, the first large scale wind farm area developed in the US.


solar thermal tower
The PS20 solar thermal tower. Its is part of the Solucar solar complex owned by Abengoa energy, in La Mayor, Andalucía, Spain. The site has a solar tower, parabolic trough and photovoltaic solar technology


solar towers
Two of the three solar towers and heliostats at Ivanpah solar thermal power plant in California’s Mojave Desert, US.


wave energy generator
Workman preparing to tow a Pelamis P2 wave energy generator on the dockside at Lyness on Hoy, Orkney Isles, Scotland. The Orkney’s have huge potential for wave and tidal energy generation and are world leaders in testing such devices. The pelamis P2 is 180m long, weighs 1,300 tonnes and is rated at 750 Kw. It was the world’s first commercial scale marine device to generate electricity to the grid, from offshore.


solar thermal power
Workers washing the heliostats to maximise reflective power at the Ivanpah solar thermal power plant.


solar cooker
A women welding joints during the construction of a solar cooker at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India.


solar panels
Technicians fitting solar photo voltaic panels to my house roof in Ambleside, Cumbria. Although the Lake District is renowned for its wet, cloudy climate, with Ambleside receiving some 70 inches of rain annually, these panels generate three quarters of my electricity needs.


fracking protestor
A protestor against fracking at a farm site at Little Plumpton near Blackpool, Lancashire, UK.


valley mist
Looking down on to Loughrigg Tarn above valley mist, one of many clean, freshwater bodies in the Lake District national park, UK.


guardian_64  by Ashley Cooper | The Guardian