When multiple extreme weather events are being witnessed across the globe, are there any that are being incorrectly attributed to climate change?
A newest study has shown how attribution science has led to major advances in linking the impacts of extreme weather and human-induced climate change damage.
Researchers from the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and the Victoria University of Wellington reviewed the impact of five different types of extreme weather events and to what degree these damaging events could be attributed to human induced climate change.
To do this, they combined information from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and results from a fast increasing body of attribution studies, where weather observations and climate models are used to determine the role that climate change played in specific weather events.
Their study, released on Tuesday in the first issue of Environmental Research: Climate, a new academic journal published by IOP Publishing, found that for some extreme weather events, such as heat waves, the link with climate change is unclear and unequivocal across the world, and that the extent of impacts are likely being underestimated by insurers, economists, and governments.
For others, such as tropical cyclones, the paper shows that important differences exist between regions and the role that climate change plays in each event are more variable than for heatwaves.
“The rise of more extreme and intense weather events such as heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall have dramatically increased in recent years, affecting people all over the globe. Understanding the role that climate change plays in these events can help us better prepare for them. It also allows us to determine the real cost that carbon emissions have in our lives,” said lead author of the study, Ben Clarke from the University of Oxford.
However, a major hurdle is the data gap. The authors point out the need for more data from lower- and middle income countries, where the impacts of climate change are more strongly felt. Research on these impacts is hampered when national weather data is not publicly available, for a variety of reasons.
“We really don’t have a comprehensive overview or detailed inventory of what impacts climate change is having today, yet,” said Friederike Otto from the Grantham Institute of Climate Change & the Environment at Imperial College, London, and a co-author of the study.
“But we do now have the tools and advanced understanding to create such an inventory, but these need to be applied more evenly across world to improve our understanding in areas where evidence is lacking,” she said, adding, otherwise, the countries are denied a chance to improve chances for people to live safely and adapt to the changing climate.