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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Climate change leading to more extreme weather

Source: IPCC
Since 1950, extreme hot days and heavy precipitation have become more common.  There is evidence that anthropogenic atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), have enhanced these extremes.  In this context, it’s crucial to provide appropriate risk management tools to increasingly vulnerable populations.

Last Friday, 18 November 2011, during its 34th Plenary Session held in Kampala, Uganda, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report entitled Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation’ alongside a ‘Summary for Policymakers’.

The report concludes with a high degree of certainty that extreme temperatures will increase during the 21st century and that heat waves, heavy rainfall and hurricanes, for instance, will become more frequent on a global scale.  Extreme weather events can have serious impacts on sectors such as water management, agriculture, food security, forestry, health and tourism.

Providing effective risk management and climate change adaptation, especially to more vulnerable populations, can mitigate the degree to which extreme events and humanitarian disasters impact communities.  The most effective actions are those that offer development benefits and vulnerability reduction over the longer-term.  It is thus essential to learn, innovate and invest in this field, taking into account a sustainable development perspective and thus reducing communities’ exposure and vulnerability.  Based on robust evidence, experts agree that actions ranging from improvements in governance to technological development are essential to reduce risks from climate extremes.

Defining the dangers of climate change is not easy due to the unpredictability of their exact extent.  Even so, the scientific community largely accepts that an increase of more than 2°C in the global mean temperature can result in serious changes in weather patterns.  With CO2 emissions still on the rise and the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012, world leaders and negotiators will be facing a challenging task during the United Nations Climate Change 2011 Conference, happening next week in Durban, South Africa.

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