Heat waves, heavy rains, and storms have become more likely in most cases – and in some cases more intense – due to artificial global warming.
Like other parts of Europe, Austria had an extraordinary heat wave in August. Temperatures of over 40 degrees in some places and extreme drought are among so-called extreme weather events, some of which have dramatic consequences. Currently, numerous forests are burning, farmers are complaining about crop losses, and many people are suffering from the health consequences of the heat.
Such weather extremes have always existed – but they are becoming more likely and, in some cases, more severe with the climate crisis. That’s the conclusion of an analysis of 500 extreme weather events and the associated attribution studies, which The Guardian reviewed with climate researchers. It is worrying that this substantial influence of the climate crisis on severe weather is already happening with an increase in the global average temperature of just one degree Celsius, the journalists and scientists write.
Attribution, how much climate change is in individual weather events, regularly causes debate. Attribution research, a relatively young branch of climate science, attempts to clarify this question. In the studies, researchers use climate models to estimate the probability of a particular event occurring due to climate change.
The climate information website Carbon Brief provided the Guardian with a database of attribution studies of more than 500 events. The journalists evaluated them: About 71 percent of the 500 weather events studied were made more likely or more severe by climate change. This is particularly clear for heat waves: Around 93 percent of the events studied have a clear link to climate change. For droughts, the figure is as high as 68 percent and 56 percent for floods. On the other hand, climate change only accounts for nine percent of their occurrence in cold snaps.
The consequences for people and national economies are dramatic; the authors sum up: that one in that three deaths caused by heat waves in the last three decades were the direct result of climate change. According to this calculation, climate change has already claimed millions of lives. In addition, it will cause trillions of dollars in material damage over the years.
“The world is changing fast, and the climate crisis is already doing us great harm – that’s the blunt summary of the study,” Prof. Maarten van Aalst, director of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, told the Guardian. He said the world is currently on course for a rise of at least 2.5 degrees Celsius.
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