Are events caused by climate change

Dr James Hansen (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University) regularly posts on his web site at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

In a recent post Dr Hansen turns the question on its head of whether an event can be attributed to climate change.

He poses the following question in relation to the 2010 heat wave in Moscow, the 2003 heat wave in Europe, the all-time record high temperatures reached in many Asian nations in 2010, the incredible Pakistan flood in 2010 (and we could add the extreme fire conditions of the 2009 S.E. Aust summer).

“Would these events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?”

Dr Hansen gives the answer as…

“almost certainly not”

An even better way to put it would be- “It is certain we are seeing extreme events of this kind as frequently as we are, because human’s are burning fossil fuels and emitting huge amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere” (John Atcheson).

While it is still true that you cannot ‘blame’ a specific weather/climate event on global warming for certain, you can say that they would almost certainly NOT have occurred without it. When we look at all of the events together the probability becomes vanishingly small that they could all have occurred together without our emissions.

Such wording makes it very clear to the general public that we are to blame for these changes. We are already seeing the impacts of human emissions. We can start to talk about the direct costs to the world economy, in terms of human suffering, in terms of species loss that are caused by our actions.

We have to act on all fronts to reduce emissions. This must also be part of any attempt to adapt.

John Knox is riding round Australia giving talks on what people can do to reduce their carbon footprint. He talked to a small group in Erina a few weeks ago and did a fantastic job of presenting ideas for the householder. You can go to http://www.ridethetalk.com.au/ and under ‘Get active!’ – ‘Choose your actions’, you can sign up to make three changes (http://www.ridethetalk.com.au/get-active/choose-your-actions/).

These include such things as- sign up for green power, switch off at the wall all ‘phantom loads’, insulate your house, install weather strips to seal your house, change all your lights to LED, and many, many more.

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