Exclusive: Professor Michael Mann Declares Global Warming Impacts Are Now 'Showing Up In Real Time'
Extreme heat waves and wildfires raging around the world are "the face of climate change," declared one of the world's leading climate scientists, with the impacts of global warming now "acting in real time."
Climate change has long been predicted to increase extreme weather events, and scientists are now confident that these predictions are coming true. Scientists say global warming has contributed to the scorching temperatures that have baked the UK and northern Europe for weeks.
Heat waves, droughts, and other climate change phenomena are more than twice as likely, according to a new analysis, which shows an "unequivocal" link.
Extreme weather has hit across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece and around the world, from North America to Japan. "This is the face of climate change," said Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University and one of the world's most eminent climate scientists. "We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change."
"The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle," he told The Guardian. "We are watching them play in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that."
"We are seeing our predictions come true," he said. "As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see it, as it means we have not taken the necessary measures.
The rapid scientific assessment of the northern European heat wave was carried out by Geert Jan van Oldenborgh of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and also by colleagues from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) consortium. "We can see the fingerprints of climate change at the local extremes," he said.
The current heat wave has been caused by extraordinary stagnation of the jet stream wind, which generally channels the cold Atlantic climate over the continent. This has left hot, dry air in place for two months, much longer than normal. The stagnation of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream is increasingly being linked to global warming, particularly the rapid warming of the Arctic and the consequent loss of sea ice.
Professor Mann said that asking whether climate change “causes” specific events is the wrong question: “The relevant question is: 'Does climate change impact these events and make them more extreme?', And we can say with great confidence that so is. "
Mann notes that the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer is statistical, which does not prove that every cancer was caused by smoking, but epidemiologists know that smoking greatly increases the risk. "That's enough to say that, for all practical purposes, there is a causal relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer and it is the same with climate change," Mann said.
Other senior scientists agree that the link is clear. Serious climate change "is unfolding before our eyes," said Professor Rowan Sutton of the University of Reading. "No one should be at all surprised that we see very serious heat waves and associated impacts in many parts of the world."
It is not too late to make the significant cuts needed in greenhouse gas emissions, Mann said, because the impacts progressively worsen as global warming increases.
"You don't go off a cliff, it's like walking into a minefield," he said. "So the argument that it's too late to do something would be like saying, 'I'm going to keep walking.' That would be absurd: you reverse course and get out of that minefield as fast as you can. It's really a question of how bad it's going to be. "
Original article (in English)