Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece, and across the world, from North America to Japan. “This is the face of climate change,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, and one the world’s most eminent climate scientists. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.”
Climate change has long been predicted to increase extreme weather incidents, and scientists are now confident these predictions are coming true. Mann said, “As a scientist [seeing our predictions come true] is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action.”
Prof Mann said that asking if climate change “causes” specific events is the wrong question: “The relevant question is: ‘Is climate change impacting these events and making them more extreme?’, and we can say with great confidence that it is.”
Mann points out that the link between smoking tobacco and lung cancer is a statistical one, which does not prove every cancer was caused by smoking, but epidemiologists know that smoking greatly increases the risk. “For all practical purposes, there is a causal connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, and it is the same with climate change,” Mann said.
Other senior scientists agree the link is clear. Serious climate change is “unfolding before our eyes”, said Prof Rowan Sutton, at the University of Reading. “No one should be in the slightest surprised that we are seeing very serious heatwaves and associated impacts in many parts of the world.”