A statistical climate change analysis led by NASA's James Hansen, which will be presented in a report released Monday on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that recent extreme weather events are not anomalies, but rather the result of a systemic climate change patterns fueled by man-made global warming.
Hansen, the scientist who first put the term "global warming" in the public lexicon over two decades ago, said over the weekend that what's happening is not random or normal, but pure and simple climate change. "This is not some scientific theory. We are now experiencing scientific fact," Hansen told the Associated Press in an interview.
In an op-ed published on Saturday, Hansen explained that the new analysis, which looked at the past six decades:
revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.
This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change. (emphasis added)
Hansen also appeared on the PBS Newshour to discuss the findings of the report:
The Associated Press adds:
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In a blunt departure from most climate research, Hansen's study — based on statistics, not the more typical climate modeling — blames these three heat waves purely on global warming:
—Last year's devastating Texas-Oklahoma drought.
—The 2010 heat waves in Russia and the Middle East, which led to thousands of deaths.
—The 2003 European heat wave blamed for tens of thousands of deaths, especially among the elderly in France.
The analysis was written before the current drought and record-breaking temperatures that have seared much of the United States this year. But Hansen believes this too is another prime example of global warming at its worst.
Hansen, one of the world's leading authorities on climate science, has also come to exemplify the 'scientist as political activist' by clamoring for public policy shifts before Congress, writing op-eds and books, and participating in direct actions with environmental activists fighting against big oil companies.
Though he admits in his op-ed that his earlier predictions were "too optimistic," Hansen says there's still time to mitigate the worst possible outcomes.
"There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time," he writes. "We can solve the challenge of climate change with a gradually rising fee on carbon collected from fossil-fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to all legal residents on a per capita basis. This would stimulate innovations and create a robust clean-energy economy with millions of new jobs. It is a simple, honest and effective solution."
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