FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
[Ottawa, February 13, 2014]: Joining with leading experts in climate change, Climate Action Network Canada is drawing attention to the implications of climate change for severe weather events such as the major winter storm currently battering the southern United States. The storm, the latest of several that have hit North America this winter, began earlier this week and is scheduled to worsen in the days ahead, and has been called potentially “catastrophic” for a region unaccustomed to severe winter weather. The dangerous mix of ice, snow and heavy winds has already resulted in several traffic deaths, left tens of thousands without power and led to thousands of flight cancellations.
“The recent extreme weather events that we have seen in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere are a wake-up call to address the threat of climate change,” said Dr. John M. R. Stone, Adjunct Professor at Carleton University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, past IPCC member and current IPCC Lead Author. “Scientists have speculated for some time that we are likely to experience the worst of climate change through the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme events. While they may only last a relatively short time the damage they do may have long-term social and economic impacts.”
While no single weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, scientists point out that, as might be expected from physical and statistical reasoning, climate change is resulting in an increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events. The unusual weather we have seen this winter in North America – where much of the mid-continent has seen bitterly cold temperatures whilst California has suffered a prolonged drought – is being linked to observed changes in the shape and behaviour of the jet stream. This in its turn appears to be related to a reduction in the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics – the Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the global average.
“If the Arctic continues to warm at a faster rate than regions further south, it is highly likely that we may see more of the ‘unusual weather’ we are seeing this winter in Europe, North America and Japan,” said Dr. Kaz Higuchi, Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies and Geography Department at York University and Executive Member of the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability. “While there is currently not enough evidence to indicate that the climate has become more variable overall, there is some observational evidence to indicate that we are seeing some increased variability at certain geographical locations.”
“Climate change is impacting people here and now – no longer can we think of climate change as affecting future generations in far-flung places, climate change is already impacting societies and ecosystems on all continents as the IPCC will reportedly conclude later this year,” said Christian Holz, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada. “But it’s also important to remember that decisive action to wean humanity off our dangerous addiction to oil, coal and gas and transition our economies to clean, renewable sources of energy can still prevent the most severe climate impact in the future. On the other hand, events such as this also make clear that societies will have to put much more emphasis on adapting to the new challenges that this new normal represents, that was brought about by our past climate pollution.”
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NB: The climate scientists, Prof. Higuchi and Prof. Stone have agreed to be contacted directly by media on this story.
Dr. Kaz Higuchi
Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies and Geography Department , York University
Executive Member, Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability
Phone: (647) 705-0642
Dr. John Stone
Adjunct Professor, Carleton University, Geography and Environmental Studies
Lead Author, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Phone: (613) 862-3393
Dr. Christian Holz, Executive Director
Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada
Toll free: +1 855 CLIM NET (254 6638) ext. 24
About Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada:
Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac) is the Canadian node of Climate Action Network International. CAN-Rac is a national network comprised of over 90 member organizations from across the country, representing aboriginal, faith-based, labour and environmental NGOs. CAN-Rac is the only organization in the country with a mandate to promote the climate movement as a whole, rather than the interests and programs of any one organization.