Majority of climate studies link extreme weather to global warming

Scientists increasingly believe that climate change has enhanced the risk of extreme heat, droughts, flooding and wildfire outbreaks across the world.

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A report from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) reveals that 41 out of 59 research papers published on the subject since 2015 found a positive link between climate change and extreme weather

Some detect a rise in frequency, and others an increase in intensity or duration, with only four concluding that climate change has decreased the risk of natural disasters.

“Just a few years ago it was hard to say more about a storm or heatwave than it was consistent with what science predicts,” ECIU director, Richard Black, said. “Increasingly, scientists are finding that specific events are made more likely or more damaging by climate change.”

The research involved studying all the research papers regarding extreme weather and climate change published in English-language scientific journals since the Paris Climate Agreement was agreed two years ago.

These involved analysis of 32 recent extreme weather events across every continent except Antarctica, finding the increase in risk caused by climate change ranges from single-digit percentages to 330-fold.

Of this small sample of events, the ECIU report concludes that climate change was responsible for approximately 4,000 deaths and around $8bn (£6bn) in economic damage.

However, it states that the cost of an event is not only determined by its scale, but by where it occurs and society’s preparedness.

In addition, the report stresses that the findings should not be taken as estimates for the overall cost of climate change, which would be “far higher” for the events studied.

This comes one day before world leaders assemble again in Paris for a climate summit, and as firefighters continue to battle huge wildfires that have wreaked havoc across southern California.  

Deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, Dr Friederike Otto, said the rapid evolution of event attribution science is generating increasingly useful knowledge for policymakers.

“We’re now finding that for many kinds of extreme weather event, especially heatwaves and extreme rainfall, we can be quite confident about the effect of climate change,” she continued.

“Whether policymakers are looking at local issues such as flood protection or involved in the global climate change negotiations, the more information they have about climate change impacts now and in the future, the better decisions they’re able to make."

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