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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: June 2021

1 - Climate Extremes, Climate Attribution, Extreme Event Attribution


Beginning in northwestern Kenya with the story of Eregae and Aita Nakali, this chapter introduces the new science of climate extremes and extreme event attribution. Between 2015 and 2019, the “fingerprints” of climate change slapped hundreds of millions of people. Extreme heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires exacted a terrible toll on developed and developing nations alike. These catastrophes affected hundreds of millions of people and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses. Fire-afflicted movie stars in California and ranchers in Australia; drought-stricken South Africans; poor flooded fisher-folk in Bangladesh; Houston's middle-class families riven by flood: these are just some of the people who felt the crushing blow of more extreme climate. While humans have always faced the perils of natural disasters, the data suggest that the human and economic cost of climate and weather extremes is increasing rapidly as our population and economies expand and our planet warms rapidly. Since the early 1980s, the number of large catastrophes has quadrupled, inflicting billions of dollars in losses and impacting vulnerable populations on every continent. Understanding the link between extremes and warming is both a moral and an existential imperative.

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