Filed Under:Risk, Public Sector Risk Management

Nobel Laureate: More Evidence Links Extreme Weather To Global Warming

NOAA, Nobel Prize-Winning Chemist Talk Droughts, Summer Heat

O.C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas once spanned over 5,400 acres. (Aug. 2011/AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
O.C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas once spanned over 5,400 acres. (Aug. 2011/AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

“Recent extreme weather events are likely connected to man-made climate change.”

That was the conclusion government scientists reached in a July, 2012 report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In the report, which was based on 50 years of weather data, scientists said the record drought in Texas in 2011 was made “roughly 20 times more likely” because of manmade climate change, specifically pointing to warming that comes from greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide.

Nobel Laureate Mario J. Molina’s keynote address to members of the world’s largest scientific society this Monday echo the NOAA’s earlier assertion related to droughts.

Molina presented research at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), an event that draws an audience of close to 14,000 scientists and other professionals. Although he noted it was impossible to say with “absolute certainty” that global warming is causing extreme weather, Molina said new evidence from “the last year or so” definitely strengthen the link.

“People may not be aware that important changes have occurred in the scientific understanding of the extreme weather events that are in the headlines,” Molina said. “They are now more clearly connected to human activities, such as the release of carbon dioxide―the main greenhouse gas―from burning coal and other fossil fuels.”

Prior to being assigned by President Obama to form part of the transition team on environmental issues, Molina was a co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his role in illuminating the threat of chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) to the Earth’s ozone layer.

Molina added that even if the scientific evidence continues to fall short of the “absolute certainty measure,” that heat, drought, severe storms and other weather events may prove beneficial in enhancing public awareness.

After exploring the potential far-reaching effects of failure to address climate change, Molina prescribed a plan reminiscent of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement under which CFCs were phased out in 1996.

“[Any] new agreement should put a price on the emission of greenhouse gases, which would make it more economically favorable for countries to do the right thing,” he said. “The cost to society of abiding by it would be less than the cost of the climate change damage if society does nothing.”

Molina also enumerated why climate change is a much more “pervasive” and “polarizing” issue when compared to the ozone depletion problem.

“Fossil fuels, which are at the center of the problem, are so important for the economy and affects so many other activities,” he said. “That makes climate change much more difficult to [adequately address].”

Molina urged scientists to not only communicate the facts underlying climate change more clearly but to also continue working with engineers to develop cheap alternative energy sources that would ostensibly reduce the current dependence on fossil fuels.

Source: American Chemical Society

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