Climate change is a tricky business. Scientists consistently (and rightly) remind us that you can’t pin any individual storm or drought or hurricane on climate change – there are too many variables, and climate change is just one of them (albeit a rapidly growing one).
However, the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists tell us that the new extremes of weather plaguing the United States and other countries are part of a trend that they expected from global warming, and will get worse. Computer models from way back in 2007 are proving accurate in predicting the types of weather that we should expect. And in a new report from Climate Communication, renowned scientists spell out in detail how climate change has become the driving factor behind all current weather events.
“All weather events are now influenced by climate change because all weather now develops in a different environment than before,” according to the group Climate Communication, in a report released shortly after Irene dumped record amounts of rain on the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
This probably doesn’t seem like news to much of the eastern half of the country, where tropical storms and hurricanes dumped massive amounts of water in the past month, as well residents in Texas who are still coping with some of the worst wildfires in history.
What it does mean is that the science is clear: climate change is here, and it is here right now.
We need to adapt – and fast. Even if we were to stop carbon pollution today, the effects of past emissions will be with us for decades. This might sound like old hat – we’ve been calling for adaptation for years – but it is clearly a more pressing need than ever.
Adaptation projects are some of the most cost-effective ways to protect against the worst effects of climate change. In the video below, Maryland restoration contractor Keith Underwood shows a project that saved a county $3 million and restored a living streambed, helping to improve the water quality of the nearby Chesapeake Bay.
(and if you like the video – head over to Planet Forward and give it a “thumbs up” for viability)
Already cities and communities are adapting to the “new normal” – Seattle is adapting to expected water shortages NOT by building lots of new, expensive facilities, but by creating habitat management plans for key watersheds that provide its drinking water. For when it rains too much, cities like Chicago are planting water-soaking plants to lessen the burden on municipal sewer systems.
Waiting around on adaptation action will likely only drive the costs up – and that doesn’t count the lost benefits that we get from the land. Things that we depend on our natural places for – clean air, clean water, healthy ecosystems – will continue to be less productive, costing us billions of dollars in lost benefit.
The writing is on the wall – climate change is here now, and we need to adapt now, before it is too late.