The devastating intensification of extreme weather is laid bare today in a Guardian analysis that shows how people across the world are losing their lives and livelihoods due to more deadly and more frequent heatwaves, floods, wildfires and droughts brought by the climate crisis.
The analysis of hundreds of scientific studies – the most comprehensive compilation to date – demonstrates beyond any doubt how humanity’s vast carbon emissions are forcing the climate to disastrous new extremes. At least a dozen of the most serious events, from killer heatwaves to broiling seas, would have been all but impossible without human-caused global heating, the analysis found.
Most worryingly, all this is happening with a rise of just 1C in the planet’s average temperature. The role of global heating in supercharging extreme weather is happening at “astonishing speed”, scientists say.
“The world is changing fast and it’s already hurting us – that is the blunt summary,” said Prof Maarten van Aalst, the director of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. The world is currently on track for a rise of at least 2.5C. Based on what we have experienced so far, that would deliver death and destruction far greater than already suffered.
The studies analysed used a scientific technique called attribution to determine how much worse, or more likely, an extreme weather event was made by human-caused global heating. The technique’s power is in drawing a direct link between the disasters that people suffer through and the often abstract increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by the mass burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. It brings the scientific reality of the climate crisis crashing home.
The climate information website Carbon Brief compiled a new database of attribution studies of more than 500 events – every such study available – and shared it exclusively with the Guardian. The analysis of the database and interviews with the world’s leading attribution scientists shows beyond any doubt that we are already deep into the era of climate death and destruction. [Continue reading…]