Monday, July 23, 2007

What the impact of global warming looks like

No single storm or flood can be attributed directly to global warming. However, we can predict macro-level weather effects of global warming with great certainty -- hotter weather, more "extreme weather events," and so on. We can also known with a great deal of certainty which regions are generally unprepared to cope with such weather when it arrives. Densely populated, impoverished, badly governed, environmentally-degraded regions will suffer terrible human tolls. What will this look like concretely? Well, we're seeing the signs in Asia right now:

In China, floods have affected more than 8 million people in 43 cities across the southwest province of Sichuan.

Elsewhere in China, more than 200 people have died and 200,000 houses been destroyed.

Seven million people are short of clean drinking water, according to authorities.

In the Indian State of West Bengal, floods caused by monsoon rains have forced 700,000 people to be evacuated.

Thousands more have been marooned by rising water.

Again, we don't know whether these particular rains are being caused by global warming. But we can say with a high degree of confidence that as the impact of global warming accelerates, we're going to be seeing many more headlines like this, and worse.

Update: Britain also hit by worst flooding in sixty years.

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