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Scientists Find Extreme Weather Events Fueled by Climate Change

Climate

It's hard to say for certain that some extreme weather events were caused by climate change but scientists are pretty confident about the connection in other cases. That's the conclusion of a report released today by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which included 22 studies by 20 research groups who assessed 16 different weather events that took place in 2013.

Brush fires in Australia add to the woes caused by extreme heat waves there.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The report, Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 From a Climate Perspective, says that the cause and effect is particularly clear in the cases of heat waves such as the record-setting temperatures in Australia in 2013. The studies found that climate change made such heat waves both more likely and more intense. Five unrelated research teams concluded separately that greenhouse gases driving climate change were the underlying cause of the temperatures that scorched Australia, killed hundreds of people and tens of thousands of bats and disrupted the Australia Open tennis tournament in January, Australia's summer, with temperatures reaching 108 degrees. Two said they felt they could say so with virtually 100 percent certainty.

One of the report's editors, U.K. meteorologist Peter Stott, said at a press conference, “It’s almost impossible to imagine how you could have such temperatures in a world without climate change."

Despite that, Australia's current government under prime minister Tony Abbott has been turning back the clock on clean energy initiatives, repealing its carbon tax and proposing to roll back its renewable energy target.

Heat waves in New Zealand, Japan, China and Korea were also found to be clearly impacted by climate change. One study found that Korea's June-to-August 2013 heat wave was ten times more likely to occur if global warming is factored in.

Meanwhile, the studies included in the report found a less clear connection between man-made climate change and weather events such as the floods caused by exceptionally heavy rainfall in Colorado in September 2013, the June 2013 flooding and landslides in India due to heavy precipitation, the October 2013 blizzard in South Dakota and the prolonged California drought, now in its third year. Many of the studies found that these could have resulted from natural changes in weather patterns and that some were even less likely to occur as a result of climate change.

Three studies came to differing conclusions on whether the California drought had its roots in warming weather. The report's lead editor, scientist Stephanie Herring of the National Climatic Data Center, called drought "a highly complex meteorological phenomenon” with a pair of studies looking at the influence of warmer ocean temperatures unable to conclude that there was a connection, while a third study said warming could be the cause of low rainfall.

"With natural variability playing a substantial role in individual events and given the complexity of the weather and climate processes involved, many challenges still need to be overcome to authoritatively assess how climate change has affected the strength and likelihood of individual extremes," the report cautioned.

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Protesters gathered outside US Bank and Wells Fargo locations around the U.S. to protest investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Dec. 1, 2016. This photo is from a protest outside US Bank in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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