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Comment | More evidence to bring down climate change naysayers

Mark Hansford

New analysis indicates that man-made climate change increased the likelihood of the heavy rains and flooding that hit parts of France at the end of May.

It’s yet more evidence that inaction is unacceptable and another call to those engineers out there who doubt the science and are unwilling to accept their role in finding a lasting solution to the effects of climate change.

This latest analysis comes from scientists with the World Weather Attribution (WWA).

Yes, they have a vested interest. WWA is an international effort designed to sharpen and accelerate the scientific community’s ability to analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme-weather events such as storms, floods, heat waves and droughts.

But their science demands attention.

Robert Vautard, a senior scientist with France’s Laboratory for Climate and Environment Sciences, has worked with Florence Habets – a colleague from the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace – and fellow WWA scientists from the University of Oxford, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and Climate Central, using observational data and climate models to conduct near real-time analyses of the likelihood that climate change contributed to the recent heavy rains in France.

Overall, they found that the probability of three-day extreme rainfall in this season has increased by at least 40% in France, with the best estimate about 80% on the Seine and about 90% on the Loire. All four climate models that simulated the statistical properties of the extremes are in good overall agreement.

“Using an ensemble of different climate models and different methods we got very consistent numbers for the impact of climate change on the rainfall in France, giving us confidence in the results,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a researcher with KNMI who led the analysis.

The ability to analyse scientifically whether man-made climate change has played a role in specific extreme weather events is advancing at a startling pace. Until very recently, scientists weren’t able to make this sort of judgement, but that’s changing fast.

A similar study on climate change attribution showed that man-made climate change made December’s record UK rainfall 50% to 75% more likely.

“Within the last year or so we’ve learned that climate change made both last year’s European heatwave and last December’s extreme rainfall in parts of the UK more likely; and now scientists conclude man-made climate change probably almost doubled the likelihood of the recent French floods,” observes Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

Black says this kind of information is really useful in helping civil authorities plan for increasing extreme weather events of the future, and in showing policymakers the increased risks that lie ahead if they choose not to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

It should also be digested by engineers who continue to hide behind their own interpretations of the climate data. More and more the evidence is there. More and more we need engineers to be united behind tackling the problem, not denying it exists.

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