Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute
“Why, now blow wind, swell billow, and swim bark! The storm is up, and all is on the hazard.” ~William Shakespeare
As tropical storm Isaac threatens both the Gulf Coast and the Republican National Convention, the oft-asked question is again on the wind: Is climate change to blame for Isaac—or any particular extreme weather event?
The short answer is no. The long answer is yes.[i]
Climate scientists warn us of the dangers of attributing any single weather event to anthropogenic, that is, human-caused global warming. The irony is that all of our current weather is attributable to global warming! This is because we humans have raised the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to a level not seen in 15 million years. Our weather is entirely different than what it would be without our tampering with Spaceship Earth’s life-support systems. And scientists are just beginning to get a grasp on just how badly we are sabotaging our spaceship.
According to UCLA professor Aradhna Tripati, “The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.”[ii] Thankfully, there is a time lag between emitting all this CO2 and reaping what we have sown. In the meantime, to paraphrase Mark Twain, en route to the planet and climate we expect, we’re getting lots of weird weather. Weird, indeed, in the sense that it’s often not what we expect.
For example, have you heard that while we were setting all sorts of temperature records here in the U.S. in July, we also experienced record low tornadoes?[iii] The simple reason for this is the heat-induced drought.
The “Extreme Weather & Climate Change” graphic shows us which extreme weather events are most likely to occur thanks to climate change. As you can see, the jury is still out on both tornadoes and hurricanes, with the current evidence seeming to point to fewer, but possibly stronger, events of this type.
So the next time someone ponders if hurricanes like Isaac are caused by global warming, simply say, “No. All of them are.”
“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.” ~Jane Austen
Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org