What “Extreme Weather” Can Teach Us About Climate Change


What “extreme weather” can teach us about climate change.  Hundreds of world landmarks from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to the Great Wall of China went dark Saturday during Earth Hour, part of a global effort to highlight climate change.  Earth Hour, held on the last Saturday of March every year, began as a Sydney only event in 2007.  The city’s iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House were dimmed again this year.

Global warming and climate change is leading to such severe storms, droughts and heat waves that nations should prepare for an unprecedented onslaught of deadly and costly weather disasters, an international panel of climate scientists said in a new report issued recently.  The greatest threat from extreme weather is to highly populated, poor regions of the world, the report warns, but no corner of the globe from Mumbai to Miami is immune.  The document by a Nobel Prize winning panel of climate scientists forecasts stronger tropical cyclones and more frequent heat waves, deluges and droughts.  The 594 page reports blames the scale of recent and future disasters on a combination of man-made climate change, population shifts and poverty.

What “Extreme Weather” Can Teach Us About Climate Change

In the past, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, founded in 1988 by the United Nations, has focused on the slow inexorable rise of temperatures and oceans as part of global warming.  This report by the panel is the first to look at the less common Climate Changebut far more noticeable extreme weather changes, which lately have been costly, on average about $80 billion a year in damage.  “We mostly experience weather and climate through the extreme,” said one of the report’s top editors, Chris Field, an ecologist with the Carnegie Institution of Washington.  “That’s where we have the losses.  That’s where we have the insurance payments.  That’s where things have the potential to fall apart.”

“There are lots of places that are already marginal for one reason or another,” Field said.  But it’s not just poor areas: “There is disaster risk almost everywhere.”  The report specifically points to New Orleans during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, noting that “developed countries also suffer severe disasters because of social vulnerability and inadequate disaster protection.”  In coastal areas of the United States, property damage from hurricanes and rising seas could increase by 20 percent by 2030, the report said.  And in parts of Texas, the area vulnerable to storm surge could more that double by 2080.  Already U.S. insured losses from weather disasters have soared from an average of about $3 billion a year in the 1980’s to about $20 billion a year in the the last decade, even after adjusting for inflation, said Mark Way, director of sustainability at insurance giants Swiss Re.  Last year that total rose to $35 billion, but much of that was from tornadoes, which scientist are unable to connect with global warming.  U.S. insured loses are just a fraction of the overall damages from weather disaster each year.

Globally, the scientists say that some places, particularly parts of Mumbai in India, could become uninhabitable from floods, storms and rising seas.  In 2005, over 24 hours nearly 3 feet of rain fell on the city, killing more than 1,000 people and causing massive damage.  Roughly 2.7 million people live in areas at risk of flooding.

Global warming and climate change continue to cause weather related disasters and greatly affect the world pocket book, but will it get the attention in needs?  Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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Lisa is a home environmental specialist focusing on smart, safe alternatives for families concerned about today’s toxin epidemic

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