A growing body of evidence demonstrates that climate change is already amplifying extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and floods, making them either more frequent or more intense. Awareness of this trend was among the factors leading to the Paris Agreement in 2015, with governments, businesses, the military and health professionals among the constituencies highlighting the growing impacts of extreme weather in the run-up to the summit.
A year ago, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) published an analysis detailing what scientists had discovered about the links between climate change and extreme weather in the two years since the Paris Agreement.1 Today, we update that analysis with a further year’s-worth of scientific papers. This strengthens further the case that climate change is driving an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, documented on every continent except Antarctica.
In last year’s analysis, we identified 59 papers published in 2016 and 2017 exploring a possible link between climate change and amplification of extreme weather events, of which 41 found a positive signal of climate change. The additional year has brought a further 43 papers, of which 32 found a positive link from climate change to the event’s likelihood or intensity. Of the new batch, only four found that climate change decreased the chances of a particular extreme event, and these all involved snow and/or cold temperatures.
The new studies encompass heatwaves in France, China, Thailand and the US; drought in the US and Africa; heavy rains in France, China, the US and Africa; storms forming in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; wildfire risk in Australia and North America; and extreme snow and cold in China and Australia. The figures suggest that both the pace of investigation and the rate at which positive links are being uncovered are accelerating.
A clear view of the science is essential for policymakers – not least those connected with the UNFCCC process, where it is highly relevant to discussions on Loss and Damage – as well as to businesses, insurers and many other constituencies impacted by, or charged with managing impacts of, extreme weather.