Just over a month ago I wrote about Australia’s Warmest Year On Record and ended the post by saying:
None of the above is necessarily due to global warming but it is all entirely consistent with global warming, and we can expect that weather like this will become normal as global warming progresses. Bearing in mind that this year represents, as the BoM says, temperatures [only] 1.2 C* above the baseline and medium-term predictions are in the range of 2 – 6 C above the baseline, I think we should be more worried than most of us are; but I will deal with those issues on their own in another post as soon as I can find time.
*That 1.2 C was Australia’s land surface temperature deviation. We out-did ourselves last year and in doing so we out-did the rest of the world, which is why the global average deviation (see below) is only half as large.
Now seems to be the time to look at those looming problems, while extreme weather around the world is dominating our evening news:
- Panorama photos reveal NSW drought conditions
- Victorian fires: 45 homes destroyed, thousands of stock lost
- Floods follow heat in Adelaide’s crazy summer
- UK weather: More flooding fears as storms cause ‘unparalleled natural crisis’
- Washington shuts down as snow storm of ‘historic proportions’ hits eastern US
- California Drought Reaches New Level of Severity Never Recorded
- At least seven dead, 1,000 injured as heavy snow hits Japan and An icy blast for China
And don’t forget that an extreme event doesn’t end when the weather eases – remember Typhoon Haiyan recovery effort to take up to five years and, locally, Bushfire recovery in the Blue Mountains stalls.
James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, told us a few years ago that global warming was “loading the climate dice”, making extreme weather events much more common (quick introduction / technical introduction), and this is what we are seeing now. The bad news is that people are suffering the effects of climate change earlier than they would have done if this amplification of extreme weather had not occurred; its silver lining is that the extreme events are encouraging their victims to sit up and take notice and (hopefully) take action on the underlying problem earlier than they would otherwise have done.
I’m not the only person to have noticed this, of course. Al Gore’s recent comments on the subject, for instance, have been widely shared. The Guardian (rapidly becoming one of my more-trusted news sources, by the way) reported him thus:
Extreme weather events including typhoon Haiyan and superstorm Sandy are proving a “gamechanger” for public awareness of the threat posed by climate change, Al Gore said on Friday.
The former US vice-president, speaking to delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said: “I think that these extreme weather events which are now a hundred times more common than 30 years ago are really waking people’s awareness all over the world [on climate change], and I think that is a gamechanger. It comes about, of course, because we continue to put 90 million tonnes of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every day, as if it’s an open sewer.”
But he said the falling price of solar and wind power gave hope for efforts to tackle climate change.
“There’s a second gamechanger, that is that the cost down-curve for photovoltaic electricity and, to a lesser extent, wind. In 13 countries, the price of solar is cheaper than or equal to the [electricity] grid average price.” He claimed that within a decade most people would live in regions where that was true, and said of the falling costs of the technologies: “It is very impressive and it is opening up great opportunities for the world to solve climate change.”
Gore’s presentation at Davos was also covered on Mashable, under the heading Al Gore on Climate Change: ‘Extreme Weather Events Are a Game Changer’.
Meanwhile, Lord Nicholas Stern (of the 2006 Stern Report) made similar points on the front page of The Guardian and attracted valuable commentary from Joe Romm on Climate Progress at In Flooded UK, Guardian Warns ‘Climate Change Is Here Now’.
There are, I think, two take-home messages from all of the above (1) we must all be prepared for wild weather from here into the foreseeable future and (2) if this weather is what we get from an average global temperature just 0.6 – 0.7 C above the twentieth-century average, a 2C rise is not going to be “safe enough” by any reasonable interpretation.