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Climate change is here now and it could lead to global conflict

 
Violent Storms in U.K.

Satellite image shows scale of storm that hit the UK. Photograph: Neodass/University of Dundee/PA

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Climate change is here now and it could lead to global conflict” was written by Nicholas Stern, for The Guardian on Friday 14th February 2014 00.22 UTC

The record rainfall and storm surges that have brought flooding across the UK are a clear sign that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change.

Many commentators have suggested that we are suffering from unprecedented extreme weather. There are powerful grounds for arguing that this is part of a trend.

Four of the five wettest years recorded in the UK have occurred from the year 2000 onwards. Over that same period, we have also had the seven warmest years.

That is not a coincidence. There is an increasing body of evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense, in line with what is expected from fundamental physics, as the Met Office pointed out earlier this week.

A warmer atmosphere holds more water. Add to this the increase in sea level, particularly along the English Channel, which is making storm surges bigger, and it is clear why the risk of flooding in the UK is rising.

But it is not just here that the impacts of climate change have been felt through extreme weather events over the past few months. Australia has just had its hottest year on record, during which it suffered record-breaking heatwaves and severe bushfires in many parts of the country. And there has been more extreme heat over the past few weeks.

Argentina had one of its worst heatwaves in late December, while parts of Brazil were struck by floods and landslides following record rainfall.

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines

A ship washed ashore by typhoon Haiyan at Anibong in Tacloban, Philippines, 5 February 2014. Photograph: Mark Tran for The Guardian

And very warm surface waters in the north-west Pacific during November fuelled Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall anywhere in the world, which killed more than 5,700 people in the Philippines.

This is a pattern of global change that it would be very unwise to ignore.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last September pointed to a changing pattern of extreme weather since 1950, with more heatwaves and downpours in many parts of the world, as the Earth has warmed by about 0.7C.

The IPCC has concluded from all of the available scientific evidence that it is 95% likely that most of the rise in global average temperature since the middle of the 20th century is due to emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation and other human activities.

Flooding in U.K.

Sussex police search and rescue officers evacute residents through a flooded street in Egham, Surrey. Photograph: Sang Tan/AP

 

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