A Committee of the Assembly of Sea Grant Extension Program Leaders
Read a recent article on climate extremes and climate change; a concluding paragraph struck me as particularly useful in responding to the commonly asked question posed in the subject line, and I thought I'd share it:
Many climate scientists (including ourselves) routinely answer media calls after extreme events with the phrase that a particular event cannot be directly attributed to global warming. This is often misunderstood by the public to mean that the event is not linked to global warming, even though that may be the case — we just can’t be certain. If a loaded dice rolls a six, we cannot say that this particular outcome was due to the manipulation — the question is ill-posed. What we can say is that the number of sixes rolled is greater with the loaded dice (perhaps even much greater). Likewise, the odds for certain types of weather extremes increase in a warming climate (perhaps very much so). Attribution is not a ‘yes or no’ issue as the media might prefer, it is an issue of probability. It is very likely that several of the unprecedented extremes of the past decade would not have occurred without anthropogenic global warming. Detailed analysis can provide specific numbers for certain types of extreme, as in the examples discussed above.
The article is here: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1...
The IPCC Released a report on extreme weather and climate change today as well; that's here: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/