Published On: Wed, Mar 29th, 2017

Last year’s weird weather proves man-made climate change is real

Record-breaking droughts and heat waves are among a host of tangible signs in 2016 that earth’s climate has changed, scientists say.

LONDON – Even as US President Donald Trump dismantles environmentally-friendly measures implemented by the Obama administration, scientists are insisting that there is “no room for doubt” that fossil fuel emissions are causing global warming and must be curbed.

The scientists were reacting 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 in 2016 that Earth’s climate has changed.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said it was “vital” to slash carbon emissions and prepare for increasingly dangerous weather.

“The influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident,” Taalas said in the report.

“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.”

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 its wettest May to December on record.

Climate scientists have been forecasting just such an increase in extreme weather events driven by the rising global temperature, with a huge amount of extra energy being trapped in the atmosphere as a result of the greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere by humans.

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.

The Independent nevertheless reports that 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 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 (EPA) – has given new currency to so-called sceptics the world over.

But Professor Sir Robert Watson, director of strategic development at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said: “While the data show an ever-increasing impact of human activities on the climate system, the Trump Administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand and state that climate change is a hoax and does not need to be addressed.

“We are now living in an evidence-free world, where facts are irrelevant. How much more evidence does the world need to recognize the dangers confronting our society?”

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