Global environmental challenges
For years, climate scientists were circumspect when asked if a specific bit of violent weather — for example, Hurricane Irene, the late-summer storm that slammed the heavily populated U.S. East Coast — could be blamed in some way on climate change.
“Climate is what you expect,” the scientists would say, “while weather is what you get.” They would often go on to say that while increasingly severe weather and correspondingly serious costs and consequences were forecast in climate change computer simulations, there was no way to directly blame a given storm on human-generated heat-trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere.
There still is no direct line between a certain amount of warming and a certain storm, wildfire, drought or flood. But there is a “new normal,” detailed by scientists on a new website . Staffed and advised by some of the most well-known climate change experts in the United States and elsewhere, the site says plainly that what the computer models foretold in 2007 is clearly documented to be occurring.
“All weather events are now influenced by climate change because all weather now develops in a different environment than before,” the Climate Communication site noted in an article released days after Irene dumped record amounts of rain on the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
As the Mississippi River crested at near-record levels near Memphis, Tennessee, a nagging question surfaced at a Capitol Hill briefing: are people to blame? According to one expert on water and hydrology, the answer is closer to yes than no.
“I’m not suggesting these (floods) are caused by climate change, but there’s very clear scientific evidence that the risk of flooding on the Mississippi River is increasing because of human influence,” said Peter Gleick, president of the California-based Pacific Institute.
from The Great Debate UK:
-Susanne Charlesworth is a member of SUDS – Sustainable Drainage Applied Research Group, Coventry University. The opinions expressed are her own.-
The scenes of flooding in Cumbria are a shocking illustration of how Britain's ageing drainage infrastructure is failing.
Or do they just illustrate the unpredictability of the weather?
Luckily, Hurricane Gustav doesn’t seem to have inflicted devastation on the U.S. Gulf coast comparable to Katrina in 2005. On the other side of the world, the worst floods in India’s Bihar province in 50 years have displaced about three million people and killed at least 90.