Is it global warming or just the weather?

Is it global warming or just the weather?
Scientists are getting more confident about attributing heatwaves and droughts to human influence

Early this year, touring a drought-stricken fruit farm in California, Barack Obama cited the state’s three-year dry spell, the worst on record, as an example of the harm that climate change can cause. Politicians like this sort of pronouncement. David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, said in 2014 that he very much suspected that climate change was behind floods in parts of the country’s south-west. In contrast, climate scientists have been ultra-cautious about attributing specific weather events to global warming. Because the weather is by its nature variable, it is impossible to know whether climate change caused any particular drought or flood. So the scientists have steered away from making firm connections.

Until now. A new branch of climate science is starting to provide answers to the question: was this drought (or heatwave or storm) at least partly attributable to climate change? In some cases, the answer seems to be a cautious yes. As the research progresses, it could change public perceptions and government policy.

Source: The Economist

Date: May 2015

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