DETROIT—On the heels of a summer that saw many parts of the country hit by record heat, severe storms and damaging floods, a new Environment Michigan report documents how global warming could lead to extreme weather events becoming even more common in the future. The report also highlighted recent extreme weather events that have impacted Michigan and the Midwest, such as 2008’s Hurricane Ike. Hurricane Ike caused 28 deaths and around $4.7 billion in damages beyond coastal regions.
“2008’s Hurricane Ike was just one example of how extreme weather causes extremely big problems for Michigan’s economy and our public safety,” said Nicole Lowen, Environment Michigan Federal Field Associate. “Given that unchecked global warming will likely fuel even more severe weather, we need to start cutting global warming pollution now.”
The new report, entitled Global Warming and Extreme Weather: The Science, the Forecast, and the Impacts on America, details the latest science linking global warming to hurricanes, coastal storms, extreme precipitation, wildfires and heat waves. The report also summarized some of the most damaging recent weather events nationally, including 2006’s National Heat Wave and 2008’s Hurricane Ike.
The report was released as Congress considers several bills to let polluters off the hook by blocking global warming pollution standards for some of the largest pollution sources. Environment Michigan urged U.S. Senators Levin and Stabenow to hold polluters accountable, and to reject Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s Dirty Air Act (S. 3072), which would block the Clean Air Act’s ability to clean up global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other stationary sources. Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of global warming pollution.
“Letting polluters off the hook after the weather we’ve seen in 2010 would be like giving a thief the key to your house after he just stole your car,” said Ms. Lowen. “The threat of increased extreme weather from global warming is just one of many reasons why we need to hold polluters accountable for their pollution, not let them off the hook by passing Sen. Rockefeller’s Dirty Air Act.”
Environment Michigan was joined by Professor Richard Rood from University of Michigan in releasing the new report.
“This taken in concert with changes in the average (a trend) and more and more extremes as time goes by, leads to a situation where it is extremely unlikely that all of the extreme events can just be normal chance. Look at the extreme events – first the drought and fires in Russia, perhaps the heat in the eastern U.S., add in the cool warm season in Southern California (to be replaced by extreme heat), we are seeing coherent behavior that is, again, consistent with the predictions of global warming” said Professor Rood.
Ms. Lowen noted that while no single event can be entirely attributed to global warming, a warming climate is increasing the odds of more extreme weather. Each weather event arises from a combination of short-term weather patterns and long-term climatic trends, and global warming “loads the dice” for severe weather.
“Today’s report shows how 2008’s Hurricane Ike was just a taste of what’s to come for Michigan unless we tackle global warming,” said Ms. Lowen.
Key findings from the Environment Michigan report include:
- Scientists project that global warming may bring fewer—but more intense—hurricanes worldwide, and that the number of intense Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic may nearly double over the course of the next century. Estimated damages from the seven most costly hurricanes to strike the U.S. since 2005 exceed $200 billion.
- Global warming is projected to bring more frequent heavy downpours and snowfalls, since warmer air can hold more water vapor. Already, the number of heavy precipitation events in the United States increased 24 percent between 1948 and 2006, helping to make flooding the most common weather-related disaster in the U.S. Recent years have seen a string of incredibly destructive floods and snowstorms, including the 2008 Midwest flood that caused $8 to $10 billion in damage and 2010’s “Snowmaggedon” that cost the East Coast more than $2 billion.
- Heat waves are projected to be more frequent, more intense, and last longer due to global warming. Heat waves are among the most lethal of extreme weather events, as illustrated by a 2006 heat wave that affected the entire contiguous United States and was blamed for at least 147 deaths in California and another 140 deaths in New York City.