Last Updated: Jun 29, 2022
Nagpur: Large gaps still exist when it comes to attributing extreme weather events to climate change, reveal researchers. A study by researchers from the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and the Victoria University of Wellington reviewed the impact of five different types of extreme weather events, and to what degree these damaging events could be attributed to human-induced climate change. According to their findings, which were released on Tuesday in the first issue of academic journal ‘Environmental Research: Climate’, attribution science has led to major advances in linking the impact of extreme weather and human-induced climate change, but large gaps in the published research still conceal the full extent of climate change damage. Researchers combined information from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, and results from a fast increasing body of attribution studies — where weather observations and climate models are used to determine the role that climate change played in specific weather events. They observed that for some extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, the link with climate change is clear and unequivocal across the world, and that the extent of the impact is likely being underestimated by insurers, economists and governments. However, for others, such as tropical cyclones, the study shows that important differences exist between regions and the role that climate change plays in each event is more variable than for heatwaves. “The rise of more extreme and intense weather events such as heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainfall have dramatically increased in recent years, affecting people all over the globe. Understanding the role that climate change plays in these events can help us better prepare for them. It also allows us to determine the real cost that carbon emissions have in our lives,” says lead author of the study, Ben Clarke from the University of Oxford. The researchers also highlighted an urgent need for more data from lower and middle-income countries, where the impact of climate change is more strongly felt. “Research on these impacts is hampered when national weather data is not publicly available — examples include South Africa, where corruption denies funds to weather reporting facilities, leading to huge data gaps in an otherwise good network; drought-prone Somalia, where disorderly regime changes have disrupted measurements; and many countries, such as Poland, where weather data is only available for a high fee, and thus generally not for publicly funded research,” the study stated. Stating that a comprehensive overview or detailed inventory of what impact climate change is having today is still missing, co-author Friederike Otto from the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said, “We do now have the tools and advanced understanding to create such an inventory, but these need to be applied more evenly across the world to improve our understanding in areas where evidence is lacking. Otherwise we are denying countries the knowledge to make the best use of sparse funds and improve chances for people to live safely and adapt to the changing climate.” BOX IN A NUTSHELL Attribution science links impact of extreme weather and human-induced climate change Clear link between heatwaves and climate change Extent of impact being underestimated by insurers, economists and governments For tropical cyclones, role of climate change more variable Studies could help understand role of climate change, prepare better, and determine real cost of carbon emissions Data lacking from lower and middle-income countries, where impact of climate change is more strongly felt.