All posts tagged 'Natural Climate Variability'

The Most Extreme Weather is Climate Change at the Margins

September 8, 2010 16:53
by J. Wylie Donald
As the season of elections unfolds, I am reminded that "all politics is local." I think the same might be said for weather and we have had plenty of that this year. Some might say, "well, no more than anywhere else." But I would disagree, and the Baltimore Sun's September 8 front page story by Frank D. Roylance supports me. . Maryland this year has tied or set records for snowiest winter, snowiest February, hottest summer, the most 90 degree days, and the most 100 degree days. Couple that with drought conditions that have ruined the corn crop, brought summer vegetables in too early, threatens the soybean crop and may prevent the planting of winter wheat and barley, and I think it is fair to say that Maryland got extra in the weather department this year. So what does all this have to do with climate change. Quoting experts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Sun provides one of the best explanations I have seen: "global warming's role is felt most when natural climate variability is already pushing weather events toward extremes.". By way of example, the impact of global warming is "if the drought starts to form, the onset is quicker; it's a little more intense and the heat waves are a little hotter . ... Sometimes it's the straw that breaks the camel's back, ..." This analysis is right on the money, and of great significance. Without climate change, natural climate variability will on occasion lead to extremes. Engineers incorporate those anticipated events into hurricane building codes, flood plain delineations, dam storage capacity and a host of other standards on which we rely. If the anticipated extremes are relied upon, and climate change pushes those extremes even further, then those standards may no longer be valid.  That may disrupt many sets of expectations. For a lawyer, this may mean that standard language may be inadequate to protect his client. If, for example, a contract does not require flood insurance because the property is outside the plotted 100-year floodplain, but climate change has enlarged the floodplain, then a bank's security may be at risk.  If a community's water supply is based on the local reservoir, but flood control requirements force lower water levels to accommodate the more severe storms predicted by climate scientists, counsel should be looking to protect her client's ability to conduct its business, including preserving water availability.  The point is not that climate change will force a wholesale revision of how business is conducted.  Rather, as is generally the case, success or failure will depend on how one attends to risks at the margins and in order to do that, one will have to understand them.  This applies not just to lawyers, but to anyone investing, or planning, or managing, or governing. Another famous saying concerns everyone talking about the weather, and nobody doing anything about it.  Some would say, that sounds just like politics. updated

Climate Change | Weather

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