The flurry of exceptional weather disasters in recent years is completely consistent with scenarios about an aspect of climate change, the head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Tuesday.
Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the top US agency for meteorology and environmental science, said extreme weather events, when viewed individually, should not be considered as firm evidence that climate change was under way.
“At the same time, (what) we are seeing, with more and more of these extreme events, is completely consistent with what we would expect to see under a climate-changed world,” Lubchenco said in response to a question at a press conference during her European visit.
“Many of the events we are seeing are characterised as a hundred- or a thousand-year event, and yet the climate models suggest that those types of events, those extreme events, are likely to become more and more frequent as the climate system is increasingly disrupted.”
In China, 230 million people were affected this year by floods and landslips, according to official figures. The death toll stands at 3,185 and more than 1,000 missing.
In Pakistan, 21 million people were hit by floods, which also killed more than 1,700.
Russia, meanwhile, suffered its worst-ever heatwave, in which at one point some 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of forests and peat bogs were ablaze. At least 50 people were killed.
Lubchenco also pointed out that the high toll of weather disasters also came “partly as a result of actions that put people in harm’s way.”
“In addition to reducing (carbon) emissions and addressing climate change, in parallel to that we can take actions to reduce people’s vulnerability to such extreme events,” she said.
Lubchenco attended talks in Nantes, western France, and Paris on management of the Atlantic bluefin tuna, an issue where the United States is lobbying for greater conservation efforts. She was to travel to Brussels for meetings with the European Commission, the European Union’s executive.