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climate, food, stupidity

Surprise, surprise: IPCC [re-]reports rise in extreme weather tied to climate change


Planes wait out the flood at Bangkok's Don Muang airport. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Get used to sights like this.

How many times do we have to be told? Yes, global warming is a cause of climate change, and yes, it’s also one of its effects, but what people will be most affected by in these early days – and what may convince the disbelievers, albeit too late – is extreme weather. Not only the number of storms, but their severity, duration, nature and shifting geographic range, as well as the disruption of seasonal weather patterns. Hurricanes unheard of in your state? Wait for it. Floods just a developing-world problem? Tell it to Tewkesbury, England, after 2007.

Tewkesbury, 2007. Guardian photo

In The Great Warminga visually stunning call to action, National Center for Atmospheric Research senior scientist Kevin Trenberth summed up the shift: “The climate is not what it used to be. It’s not your grandfather’s climate any more.” That documentary and its PBS offshoot, filmed in 2004-05,  predicted Hurricane Katrina, along with ongoing disease vectors and increasing crop failure and food riots (and we’re just getting started). The producers were not prescient, just mindful of IPCC findings and available research. [I should note that the doc also offers solutions – it’s not all bleak].

Now the IPCC is back with a new report focused specifically on extreme weather. While necessarily cautious about some impacts, the report, produced by 220 scientists over 2 years, catalogues catastrophes to come. The World Resources Institute has produced a 5-point summary of the report, and as Fiona Harvey reports in the Guardian, there’s hope that its bluntness will lead to action:

Europe’s climate chief, Connie Hedegaard, said the report should galvanise governments to act, especially when added to the stark warnings last week from the International Energy Agency that the world has only five years to take the emissions-cutting measures needed to prevent catastrophic global warming.

[Hedegaard] said: “Last week, the serious warnings from the International Energy Agency. Today, this IPCC report … With all the knowledge and rational arguments in favour of urgent climate action, it is frustrating to see that some governments do not show the political will to act. In light of the even more compelling facts, the question has to be put to those governments in favour of postponing decisions: for how long can you defend your inaction?”

Harvey’s piece also goes on to point out that if we don’t clean up our act NOW, “adaptation strategies” will be all but pointless.

To be fair, renewable energy, transportation and adaptation projects are getting more attention from business and government (despite the UK government’s sharp reversal on Feed-in Tariffs), but we have GOT to focus on conservation and cutting consumption – of energy and goods. Adaptation – and even whole-grid renewables – will not save us.

Hmm, starting to go all-caps. Better get out of here and enjoy that balmy November weather

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