Scientists warn extreme, weather-related events around the world show the economic and social costs of a warming planet
Leslie Hook in London (F Times) Sep 17, 2020
The worst wildfires in US history, Arctic sea ice trending towards a historic low, simultaneous hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and the hottest summer in the northern hemisphere since records began: scientists say this year’s sequence of natural disasters and record temperatures have exceeded their worst fears.
“We were speculating 40 years ago about things that might happen, and I don’t think that any of us expected that in our lifetimes, we would see these things unfolding,” said Chris Rapley, a 73-year-old professor of climate science at University College London.
“It has become a real problem of today, rather than a predicted problem of tomorrow.” The natural disasters have brought home the great economic and social costs of a hotter planet, which has warmed by about 1C over the past century.
The wildfires across the US West coast have burnt more than 5m acres, pumping an estimated 110m tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equivalent to the annual emissions of the UK’s entire power sector.
Smoke from the blazes, has travelled high in the atmosphere as far as Northern Europe, according to satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus atmospheric monitoring services.