Columbia University experts are raising their voices about extreme weather, after a too-hot 2022 and wild disasters.
According to Radley Horton, a research professor from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, human-induced climate change has raised the global average atmospheric temperature by about two degrees in the last few decades. He says that previous climate models have focused on that temperature rise, but underestimated the rise of extreme weather events that result from it.
“One of the key takeaways is that a little bit of change in global temperature has an enormous impact,” said Horton, pointing to the Pacific Northwest heat wave of 2021 and the European heat wave of 2022, both of which caused deaths, forest fires, and infrastructure breakdown.
Other climate-caused disasters in recent years have included extreme hurricane seasons, unprecedented fires and flooding, and long-running droughts.
“We are locked into a lot of additional climate hazards, there is no way around it,” said Horton. Even if all greenhouse gas pollution switched off today like a light-switch, the damage has been done, and Earth will continue to grow warmer for several decades to come.
Horton is one of the experts from many climate-related disciplines from Columbia University who have released a warning presentation. “Earth Series Virtual: Blazing Temperature, Broken Records,” lays out many of the likely or inevitable consequences of human-induced climate change.
“The climate is changing, and we are not adapted to be able to deal with it from a health perspective,” said Cecilia Sorensen, a physician and associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Columbia University Medical Center.
Despite the dark tone of much of the presentation, the panelists all took care to express hope that impacts can be minimized. They advocate for community-focused approaches, such as addressing the unequal ways extreme weather events impact underserved communities and classes.