RMCO This Month, Article 1

June 2011

Featured Item

Deadly tornadoes, huge storms, overflowing rivers, massive snowmelts, crippling droughts — it seems like each day there is a new weather-induced crisis somewhere in America. Are these extreme weather events across the country and in the West (see below) the new normal? The Union of Concerned Scientists held a press conference in May to discuss how human-caused climate change is contributing to the recent wave of history-defying weather Americans have been experiencing, including how such extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and are likely to continue to in the future. Heavy rains and flooding may be “new norm”, Union of Concerned Scientists, May 18, 2011. According to climate change expert and conference-participant Katherine Hayhoe, “global weirding,” or the increasing instances of extreme weather phenomena throughout the world, is in part the product of human action. “It’s like we’re adding more sixes to the dice,” she said. “When you roll the dice the question becomes: ‘Was that a natural six or a man-made six?'”

To help answer that question, climatologists are employing increasingly sophisticated methods of studying weather extremes — and believe they are making important progress. What’s With the Weather? Is Climate Change to Blame?, Yale Environment 360, April 21, 2011. Because extreme events are necessarily rare, it can be difficult to detect or track trends in their occurrences. Only by comparing the most extreme events to “ordinary” extreme events can scientists begin to approach determining to what extent specific heat waves, floods, and other extreme weather events are attributable to human-caused climate change.

Freak storms becoming commonplace underscores the need for actions to prepare for the changes that are already occurring and are likely to accelerate. With only 14 states now even planning, let alone implementing, climate-change preparedness plans, we are dangerously unprepared for the consequences of how we are disrupting the climate. Are You Ready for More?, Newsweek, May 29, 2011.

Here at RMCO, we think the recent influx of severe weather makes the case both for sharp reductions in the emission of heat-trapping pollution to reduce how much we change the climate and for actions to prepare for the changes we’ve

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