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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Half of extreme weather events linked to climate change, new research shows

Published 08/11/2016 | 14:11

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HALF of all extreme weather events including drought, flooding and heatwaves are now directly linked to climate change.

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The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that the last five years were the hottest on record, and new research suggests that man-made climate change is directly impacting on people and places.

The ‘Global Climate in 2011-2015’ report says of 79 studies published between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that human-induced climate change contributed to the extreme event in question. High-impact events over the period include the East African drought in 2010-2012 which caused an estimated 258,000 excess deaths, flooding in South-East Asia in 2011 which killed 800 people and caused more than US$40 billion in economic losses and 2015 heatwaves in India and Pakistan which claimed more than 4,100 lives.

The record temperatures were accompanied by rising sea levels and declines in Arctic sea-ice, continental glaciers and northern hemisphere snow cover.

“All these climate change indicators confirmed the long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gases,” it said, noting that carbon dioxide reached the significant milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere for the first time in 2015.

The report was submitted to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 22, which takes place at Marrakech in Morocco until November 18.

It will discuss implementation of the historic Paris climate deal, which came into force last Friday.

“The Paris Agreement aims at limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2C and pursuing efforts towards 1.5C above pre-industrial levels,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.

“This report confirms that the average temperature in 2015 had already reached the 1C mark. We just had the hottest five-year period on record, with 2015 claiming the title of hottest individual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016,” he added.

Data suggests the effects of climate change have been “consistently visible” on the global scale since the 1980s with rising average temperatures over land and the oceans, sea-level rise and “widespread” melting of ice.

“It has increased the risks of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, record rainfall and damaging floods,” Mr Taalas added.

There have also been events, such as the unusually prolonged, intense and hot dry seasons in the Amazon basin of Brazil in both 2014 and 2015, which are of concern as potential “tipping points” in the climate system, the report added.

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