Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The road ahead: More extreme weather?

Photo by Les Dunford
Extreme weather increasingly prompts talk of climate change and the link between the two.

We saw that recently with Hurricane Sandy in the US, and before that with the spate of droughts and wildfires. Australians pondered whether the record temperatures seen at the start of the year will become a more regular occurrence.

Now it is the turn of Britons. The British Isles, which are normally basking in spring sunshine at this time of year, are instead lying under several feet of snow. Thousands went without power, lambs are dying in the fields and there was the usual 'travel chaos'.

It was all timed nicely to coincide with the departure of the government's chief scientist, who drew the link with climate change as his farewell message.
Professor Sir John Beddington said: "The variation we are seeing in temperature or rainfall is double the rate of the average. 

"That suggests that we are going to have more droughts, we are going to have more floods, we are going to have more sea surges and we are going to have more storms."

He said that the term 'global warming' misleadingly suggests that temperatures will rise uniformly, when in fact the likely result is more extreme weather variations.

Photo by Les Dunford
He also said there was a lag of some 20-25 years between rises in carbon emissions and perceptible changes to climate. In other words, the crazy weather we are seeing today is the result of carbon loading in the eighties, and we will still be living with the effects of today's rampant emissions 20 years from now - even if dramatic action is taken to reduce them.

Of course, Beddington is not the only scientist pointing out the link. The Guardian's John Vidal recently summarised a growing belief among climate scientists that dwindling Arctic ice coverage is affecting the weather of the whole northern hemisphere, primarily by affecting the course of the jet stream.

This all means that countries like Britain that are used to a pretty mild climate are going to have to adapt - bigger fuel supplies, more flood defences and more emergency planning. Cutting emissions may not seem like the cheapest option for governments right now, but the costs of doing nothing are already mounting.

No comments:

Post a Comment