It has long been argued that the earth’s temperature has been consistently warming over the past century. Most people have read reports that the cause of this warming is due to the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2), and it is caused by us. But people are also confused about climate change when they are faced with extreme winter weather conditions, as much of the Midwest has been this winter.
According to the government’s official monthly climate report, 2013-2014 winter weather was one of the coldest on record in some parts of the Midwest. Also, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reports that December 2013 through February 2014 was the 34th coldest period for 48 states since 1895. Over seven Midwest states endured their coldest winters and seventeen other states were registered as colder than average.
When the bitter winter weather strikes, it seems that all anyone talks about is how climate change is a myth. I’m sure you’ve heard people say “So much for global warming,” or something to that effect during winter. People become confused about the extreme weather conditions and think that cold weather negates climate change claims. But only a few places, along with the United States, were colder than normal last year. One reason that the United States experienced a colder winter was because there was no El Nino, which happens once every few years and changes the weather, rain, and temperature patterns around the world.
In fact, many parts of Asia, Europe and the Pacific region experienced extreme warm weather last year that, according to the World Meteorological Organization, can be blamed on human-induced climate change. Also, the UN weather agency’s annual assessment reports that 2013 was the sixth-warmest year on record. Australia had its hottest year on record. The extreme weather has caused sea levels to rise and causes an increase of storm surges and coastal flooding. Central Europe dealt with a massive flooding in June, China and Japan experienced a typhoon, and other parts of China had a drought.
Perhaps the words “global warming” are the cause of the confusion about climate change. People hear the word “warming” and think that there will be consistent hot weather. However, climate change affects normal weather patterns in many different ways. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states that climate change is a far more immediate risk than people once thought. During the WMO’s annual assessment, they reported that 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record and it rated among the 14 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Leading author of the report, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institute of Science in California declares, “Managing the risks of climate change is an extremely difficult challenge, but it is very clear that we are not ready for the events we have been seeing over the past years.” The group also predicts that climate change will cause an increase in international tensions, food prices, poverty and health problems and a decrease in availability of water and economic growth.
It is time to stop being confused about climate change and extreme weather. They go hand in hand. The American Association for the Advancement of Science also confirms that climate change is happening right now. In the last 800,000 years, CO2 levels have increased by about 30%. They state that, “The changes in climate have severe consequences for human health, ecosystems and agricultural systems around the globe. These problems will become worse in the next 10 to 20 years.”
By Sara Petersen