Will our short attention span be the end of us? Just a month after the second “storm of a century” in two years, the media moves on to the latest scandal with barely a retrospective glance at the implications of the extreme climate anomalies we have seen.
Ask the homeowners along the New Jersey and New York shores still homeless. Ask the local governments struggling weeks later to turn on power to their cold, darkened towns and cities. Ask the entire north-east coast, reeling from a catastrophe whose cost is estimated at $50bn and rising. (I am not brave enough to ask those who’ve lost husbands or wives, children or grandparents).
I bring up these facts sadly, as one who has urged us to heed the scientific evidence on climate change for the past 25 years. The science is clear: climate change is here, now. Superstorm Sandy is not the first storm, and certainly won’t be the last. Still, it is hard for us as individual human beings to connect the dots. That’s where observation, data and scientific analysis help us see.
No credible scientist disputes that we have warmed our climate by almost 1.5C over land areas in the past century, most of that in the past 30 years. As my colleagues and I demonstrated in a peer-reviewed studypublished this summer, climate extremes are already occurring much more frequently in the world we have warmed through our reliance on fossil fuels. Our analysis showed that extreme summer heat anomalies used to be infrequent: covering only 0.1-0.2% of the globe in any given summer during the base period of our study, from 1951 to 1980. During the past decade, as the average global temperature rose, such extremes have covered 10% of the land.
Read more: Guardian UK >>
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