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There’s finally somebody to thoroughly blame for this miserable summer heat: ourselves.
Human-caused climate change is essentially the only explanation for the extremely high summer temperatures, longer summers, and related weather catastrophes, a group of scientists argue in a new research paper published Monday. These phenomena, the scientists say, also appear to be here to stay.
"It is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change," the paper’s lead author, James E. Hansen, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed previewing the study's findings. "To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change."
Hansen and his co-authors say their new analysis of the past six decades of weather shows that the effects of climate change are no longer theoretical—they are being felt now, including in deadly heat waves, droughts, and wildfires. Extremes are becoming not only more frequent worldwide but also more intense.
The Los Angeles Times notes that Hansen was one of the first scientists to warn about climate change during a 1988 Senate hearing. The longtime director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies now says that his mistake then was that he was "too optimistic." His projection underestimated how quickly average rises would drive an increase in extreme weather.
The paper’s prediction for the near future is for more severe and more frequently severe weather. Hansen’s call to action asks that we not waste time when solutions to global warming exist within reach.