Sun, Jul 29, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Extreme global weather is ‘face of climate change’

The Guardian

The heat waves and wildfires wreaking havoc around the globe are “the face of climate change,” a leading climate scientist said, with the effects of global warming now “playing out in real time.”

Climate change has long been predicted to increase extreme weather incidents, and scientists are now confident these predictions are coming true, with the scorching temperatures that have baked the UK and northern Europe for weeks attributable to global warming.

The hot spell was made more than twice as likely by climate change, demonstrating an “unambiguous” link, an analysis found.

Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece, and across the world, from North America to Japan.

“This is the face of climate change,” Penn State University Earth System Science Center director Michael Mann said. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.”

“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” he said. “We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that.”

“We are seeing our predictions come true. As a scientist, that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action,” he added.

The rapid scientific assessment of the northern European heat wave was done by Geert Jan van Oldenborgh at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and his colleagues in the World Weather Attribution consortium.

“We can see the fingerprints of climate change on local extremes,” he said.

The heat wave has been caused by an extraordinary stalling of the jet stream wind, which usually funnels cool Atlantic weather over the continent. This has left hot, dry air in place for two months — far longer than usual.

The stalling of the northern hemisphere jet stream is being increasingly firmly linked to global warming, in particular to the rapid heating of the Arctic and resulting loss of sea ice.

Asking if climate change “causes” specific events is the wrong question, Mann said.

“The relevant question is: ‘Is climate change impacting these events and making them more extreme?’ and we can say with great confidence that it is,” he added.

The link between smoking tobacco and lung cancer is a statistical one, which does not prove every cancer was caused by smoking, but epidemiologists know that smoking greatly increases the risk, Mann said.

“That is enough to say that, for all practical purposes, there is a causal connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer and it is the same with climate change,” he said.

Other senior scientists agree.

Serious climate change is “unfolding before our eyes,” UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science director of climate research Rowan Sutton said. “No one should be in the slightest surprised that we are seeing very serious heat waves and associated impacts in many parts of the world.”

It is not too late to make the significant cuts needed in greenhouse gas emissions, because the effects progressively worsen as global warming increases, Mann said.

“It is not going off a cliff, it is like walking out into a minefield,” he said. “So the argument it is too late to do something would be like saying: ‘I’m just going to keep walking.’ That would be absurd — you reverse course and get off that minefield as quick as you can,” he said. “It is really a question of how bad it is going to get.”

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