[Greenbuilding] Fuel for the fire
jason at amicusgreen.com
Wed May 18 21:15:16 PDT 2011
Texas Tech, Swiss Re global reinsurance company....those bastions of climate
U.S. Weather Extremes Show "New Normal" Climate
Author: Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs
of a "new normal" of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change,
scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.
"It's a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best
way to describe what we're seeing," climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of
Texas Tech University told reporters.
"We are used to certain conditions and there's a lot going on these days
that is not what we're used to, that is outside our current frame of
reference," Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized
by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.
An upsurge in heavy rainstorms in the United States has coincided with
prolonged drought, sometimes in the same location, she said, noting that
west Texas has seen a record-length dry period over the last five years,
even as there have been two 100-year rain events.
Hayhoe, other scientists, civic planners and a manager at the giant Swiss Re
reinsurance firm all cited human-caused climate change as an factor pushing
this shift toward more extreme weather.
While none would blame climate change for any specific weather event, Hayhoe
said a background of climate change had an impact on every rainstorm, heat
wave or cold snap.
"What we're seeing is the new normal is constantly evolving," said Nikhil da
Victoria Lobo of Swiss Re's Global Partnerships team. "Globally what we're
seeing is more volatility ... there's certainly a lot more integrated risk
In addition to more extreme local weather events, he said, changes in
demographics and how materials are supplied make them more vulnerable.
"In a more integrated economic system, a single shock to an isolated area
can actually end up having broad-based and material implications," da
Victoria Lobo said. For example, if a local storm knocks out transport and
communications systems, "someone 1,000 miles away is not receiving their
iPad or their car."
Aaron Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner for natural resources and water quality
for Chicago, said adapting to climate change is a daunting task.
Citing the down-to-earth example of Chicago's 4,400 miles of sewer mains,
which were installed over the last 150 years and will take decades to
replace, Durnbaugh said accurate forecasting of future storms and floods is
The city of Chicago's cost of dealing with extreme weather events through
the end of this century has been conservatively estimated in a range from
$690 million to $2.5 billion, Durnbaugh said, with the cost to homeowners
and local businesses expected to be far higher.
Globally, da Victoria Lobo said the annual average economic losses from
natural disasters have escalated from $25 billion in the 1980s to $130
billion in the first decade of the 21st century.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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