Yes, We Can! … Link Weird Weather to Climate Change (Finally)


Scientists are slowly becoming more confident in connecting weird weather events around the world to climate change. Now we need to spread this message so that the world can take action.

Weird weather everywhere

I travel a lot – just in the past year I’ve been to dozens of states, and spent time in countries all around Asia. There is very little that ties the cities I’ve been to, like bustling New York City, poverty-ridden Kolkata, India, or the coal mining region of Samarinda, Indonesia, but there is one thing I keep hearing over, and over, and over again.

“The weather has been so weird here lately.”

In New York City, it was extreme cold and non-stop snowstorms. In Jakarta, it is a rainy reason that bleeds into dry, and a dry one that bleeds into wet, with flooding now scattered throughout the year. Delhi has been getting hotter and hotter, with the Indian monsoon coming later and later every year. Everywhere is getting weird.

When so many different parts of the world are seeing so many weird weather patterns, chances are, it’s not a coincidence. Now, an icon of my childhood has told us the obvious – weird weather is directly connected to climate change.

That’s right, Bill Nye, the science guy, the star of one of my favorite shows as a kid, now a spokesperson for action on climate change, has been tweeting about how weird weather events in Texas and Oklahoma are due to rising global temperatures.

Bill Nye is not an outlier: Today, science can now more clearly connect these weird extreme weather events together. The Washington Post reports:

“[Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe] took to Facebook to explain the science. As Hayhoe noted, climate change doesn’t “cause” individual extreme events, in this case or in others. But “just like steroids make a baseball player stronger, climate change EXACERBATES many of our weather extremes, making many of them, on average, worse than they would have been naturally.”

For years, scientists were afraid to make this connection, and for good reason. Weather is complicated, and climate change is complicated, and scientists don’t want to attribute a single event to something they don’t fully understand. That caution is one reason we trust scientists so much. But the data and models have gotten better, and the connection is becoming clearer, according to renowned science magazine Nature.

“[Researchers at ] ETH Zurich, analyzed simulations from 25 climate models. First they determined how many daily extreme hot or wet events had occurred between 1901 and 2005. Then they compared these figures with model simulations of extreme weather frequency and severity between 2006 and 2100, under a scenario in which emissions of greenhouse gases remain high … The results, which agree with the observed increase in extreme rain and heat since the 1950, make a strong case for policy efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.”

Crucial year

In fact, research is now finding that extreme weather events grow exponentially with even small changes in global temperature. A change from the .85 degrees Celsius increase we have been since the dawn of the industrial revolution, to a 2-degree rise could increase extreme weather events five-fold.

That is why we need to act. We also need to have more businesses pushing government. The connection here is clear: Weird weather affects businesses as well, many of whom depend on natural resources such as water for their operations. More climate unpredictability will mean more business unpredictability, and that isn’t good for anyone.

So, the next time you hear someone remark that the weather has been weird lately, connect it to climate change. The more we do this, the more people will understand that climate is affecting them, and the closer we can come to building the public movement necessary to change our global priorities. Yes, we can.

Let’s listen to Bill Nye and begin connecting the dots, before it becomes obvious (and too late).

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.