Extreme weather events used to be just that – extreme or unusual. However, now, thanks to global warming, climatologists are saying that extreme weather is occurring “regularly.”
Scientists say that since the industrial revolution, globally, the planet has warmed by 2.16°F. Two degrees may not sound like a lot, but in climate terms, it is massive, and it has already resulted since the preindustrial era, is already resulting in unprecedented and destructive events worldwide. From the dried-out landscape of the Southwest to the rapidly warming Arctic, the shifts we’ve already seen have resulted in what some researchers call “weather weirding,” as deadly and damaging weather events supercharged by global warming strikes with increasing regularity.
Global warming has had devastating environmental consequences worldwide. But perhaps the most immediate concern, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in destruction, are weather-born disasters. Here are just a few examples of how climate change is manifesting in increasingly common extreme weather events.
- During 2020, California saw its worst wildfire season on record, with massive fires also occurring in other Western states as well as Siberia and Australia, among other areas.
- Due to human-caused global warming, heat waves are becoming more severe and longer-lasting across large portions of the globe, from the American Southwest to the Middle East.
- Sea level rise is leading to a dramatic increase in so-called “sunny day flooding” — floods caused by high tides combined with higher sea levels rather than weather — in major cities along the East Coast of the U.S., a trend that is forecast to continue.
Already, the summer of 2021 is a prime example of the costly extreme weather that’s becoming the norm, with a severe drought in the West combining with record heat waves to create ideal conditions for wildfires in much of the region.
How much more common and how deadlier these events become is still largely up to us. Studies show that the more we cut emissions of greenhouse gases — especially if we do it quickly — the better our chances are of averting truly catastrophic consequences of climate change, such as the collapse of the Greenland or West Antarctic Ice Sheets.
We can figuratively and literally turn this tide of destruction by taking serious action to reduce carbon emissions. Innovation in the energy sector to create the clean technologies of the future and leveraging more of the resources we already have available, such as wind, solar, and battery technology, can cut emissions by large amounts starting now – it all depends on an acceptance of the science and a willingness to act.