Are tornadoes caused by climate change?

This spring, the U.S. has experienced the deadliest single tornado on record and the deadliest single day of tornadoes on record — and, no, they weren’t the same event. Yesterday brought still more tornadoes and still more deaths.

But don’t stop there: The Mississippi is flooding at near-record levels and Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas are experiencing a drought almost as bad as the one John Steinbeck wrote about.

Here we are confronted with really dramatic weather of the sort climate change scientists and activists have warned us about — but, frustratingly, the science isn’t yet able to demonstrate that tornadoes, in particular, have become more severe and frequent as a result of the climate change.

The media doesn’t know how to handle the paradox in its reported pages, so it’s kicking the conversation back to op-ed sections. Environmental journalist and activist Bill McKibben penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he more or less accusing everyone who’s not making the connection of burying their heads in the sand.

«It’s far smarter,» McKibben writes, with his tongue firmly in check, «to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change.» He concludes:

It’s very important to stay calm. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because ‘populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.’ I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Where McKibben has been reduced to gallows humor by his long battle to push the government to get serious about the changing climate, the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer appeals to our common sense:

No one storm, drought or flood can be proof of global climate change…Weather varies; it takes decades for scientists to document trends. Yet climate scientists for years have warned that climate change will bring more extreme storms, more rain and more drought.

In spite of the complexity of the scientific process and the climate itself, the editors pose a simple choice: The federal government and its local counterparts can «Reject evidence of climate change or confront it, work to reverse it, and adapt.»

While I may have led you to believe that I would offer a definitive answer to the question posed in this post’s title (sorry about that!), the truth is that it’s a red herring to debate whether this event or that event could only have happened in Climate 2.0, as Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research has argued: The climate is changing, making extreme weather events more and more likely. The question isn’t whether this tornado or that flood was caused by climate change — or even whether changes in the climate are caused by greenhouse gas emissions or millennial forces. The question is whether we’re going to start preparing in earnest for the extreme weather events that are headed our way.


Autor: Cameron Scott (EmailTwitterFacebook)

Fecha: 25/05/11

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