A new IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report obtained by the Associated Press emphasizes that extreme weather events are "a noticeable aspect of climate change" and states that there is a 2 in 3 probability that man-made greenhouse gases have exacerbated recent extreme weather events. The report also states that climate scientists are 99% certain that there will be more extreme heat than cold, and the main concern associated with that is increased precipitation in the form of heavy rainstorms, since evaporation increases in a warmer atmosphere, which will hold more moisture. This comes in the heels of a study by NOAA that links droughts in the Mediterranean region with human-caused climate change.
Various articles and blogs have recently discussed the issue of extreme weather and its possible link with climate change, including myself, but now we have it directly from the top climate scientists: our suspicions are true. We are seeing, without any doubt, a series of unprecedented weather events (at least historically). They are happening at lightning fast speed, and yet many people fail to acknowledge a common causative agent. It is hard to "see" the 1°C of warming that the planet has already experienced. But floods, fires, droughts, and storms are very real and very visible, and there are enough old-timers around that can definitely tell without the help of any statistics that there haven't been times like this before. We are all at risk of experiencing one of those extreme events soon, or of being adversely affected by one even if we don't experience it directly. Just yesterday the New York Times published an article describing the ripple effects of the Texas drought on the global food and agricultural sectors.
One of the main aspects of risk-taking relates to the sense of control a person might have over a certain risk. If I wear a seat belt, I have control over the risk of being injured in a car crash. It has been shown that when people feel they cannot control their risk, they tend to ignore it, or live with it. Global warming is no different. People feel helpless because it is such a huge issue, and the fight against it involves so many lifestyle changes that it becomes daunting. However, the costs of inaction are much higher than the costs of tackling the task at hand. Preparing for those extreme events is a must, and governments at all levels should be listening to the science. We should be gearing up and devising strategies to minimize and cope with the potentially devastating effects of these extreme events -- to humans, wildlife, the economy, and the environment.