It’s not just rising sea levels. A warmer planet means drought, extreme weather and raging wildfires across Middle America.
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The landmark Paris Agreement, signed by nearly every nation on Earth except the U.S., aims to keep the world’s temperature from rising to dangerous, climate-shifting levels of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
However, even a 1-degree rise could increase the likelihood of extreme weather —including floods, droughts, and heat waves — in the U.S. and around the world, a new study said.
Even in that best-case scenario of only a 1-degree rise, the probability of extreme climatic events is still likely to increase throughout most of North America, Europe, and East Asia, the study said. The frequency of extreme climate and weather events is already increasing, and many experts say man-made climate change as an important motivating factor.
“Damages from extreme weather and climate events have been increasing, and 2017 was the costliest year on record,” said study lead author Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University. “These rising costs are one of many signs that we are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming.”
Keeping the world’s temperature to a 1-degree rise is informally known as an “aspirational” target of the Paris agreement, compared to the actual commitment of a 2-degree rise.
“The really big increases in record-setting event probability are reduced if the world achieves the aspirational targets (of the Paris agreement) rather than the actual commitments,” Diffenbaugh said.
“At the same time, even if those aspirational targets are reached, we still will be living in a climate that has substantially greater probability of unprecedented events than the one we’re in now,” he said.
For instance, 2 to 3 degrees (C) of global warming would also likely lead to three times as many record-breaking wet days across large chunks of the U.S., the study said.
Previous studies from Diffenbaugh’s team said that global warming has increased the odds of the hottest events across more than 80% of the planet, while also increasing the likelihood of both wet and dry extremes.
The research was released Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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