Weather proves climate change is real with ‘no room for doubt’, say scientists
Ian Johnston @The Independent
There is “no room for doubt”. The astonishing weather experienced by the world last year and advances in climate science demonstrate conclusively that fossil fuel emissions are causing global warming – and something must be done about it.
That was the reaction from scientist after scientist to a new report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which documented record-breaking droughts, heatwaves, rainfall, melting of sea ice and a host of tangible signs observed in 2016 that the Earth’s climate has changed.
Amid fears that Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Secretary-General of the WMO said it was “vital” to slash carbon emissions and prepare for increasingly dangerous weather.
Writing in the report’s foreword, Petteri Taalas said: “The influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident.
“This influence is increasingly being demonstrated by attribution studies for some of the most critical weather and climate extremes, in particular extremes related to heat.
“It is vital that [the Paris Agreement’s] implementation becomes a reality and that [it] guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies.”
The WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016 pointed to multiple signs that our planet’s weather is getting more extreme, including:
• the record average temperature for the year of about 1.1C above pre-industrial levels;
• millions of people going hungry after crops failed in parts of Africa as rainfall fell up to 60 per cent below average;
• flooding that displaced hundreds of thousands of people in south-east Asia;
• record low levels of sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic;
• the wettest ever winter on record in Scotland and China’s wettest year;
• France’s driest July and August and the record driest winter and spring that helped produce Canada’s worst-ever wildfire at Fort McMurray, Alberta;
• extreme temperatures which saw records fall from Santiago in Chile, which hit 37.3C, to Svalbard in the Arctic, which was 6.5C warmer over the year than the average between 1961 and 1990;
• devastating wildfires in Tasmania amid a prolonged drought;
• and then devastating floods in Tasmania after the drought ended and the island experienced it wettest May to December on record.
Climate scientists have been forecasting just such an increase in bad weather driven by the rising global temperature, with a huge amount of extra energy now being trapped in the atmosphere as a result the greenhouse gases humans pumped into the atmosphere.
Increasingly, researchers have been able to show scientifically how individual weather events are made much more likely and more extreme by human-induced climate change.
But there was a distinct note of desperation in a round-up of reaction from leading experts to the WMO report, produced by the Science Media Centre.
The election of Mr Trump – who has appointed a string of climate science deniers to key positions in his administration, such as Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency – has given new currency to so-called sceptics the world over.
This was a major theme of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Boston last month, and a March for Science and a Climate March are planned in Washington DC and other major cities around the world next month.
Climate science ‘scepticism’ is far from confined to American right-wing politicians. Ukip’s leader, Paul Nuttall, has suggested Al Gore’s seminal film about climate change, The Inconvenient Truth, is “in fact a convenient lie used by propagandists”.
But Dr Phil Williamson, an associate fellow at the University of East Anglia, said: “The WMO’s statement on the 2016 climate leaves no room for doubt.
“In the Olympics, records are broken by smaller and smaller amounts; in climate change, the opposite now seems to be true, not just for temperature, but for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, sea-ice cover and global sea level rise.