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Weather- and climate-related extreme events: teachable moments

TitleWeather- and climate-related extreme events: teachable moments
Publication TypeManual Entry
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWallace, John M.
Date Published2012/03/13
1630 Global Change: Impacts of global change (1225, 4321), 4301 Natural Hazards: Atmospheric (0370, 3322, 3339), 4321 Natural Hazards: Climate impact (1630, 1637, 1807, 8408), 4330 Natural Hazards: Vulnerability, 4332 Natural Hazards: Disaster resilience, extreme events

It is difficult for the public to grasp the significance of global warming because the mildness of its early symptoms belies the gravity of its long-term consequences. Mindful of the human tendency to discount the importance of events seen as occurring far in the future, many scientists and science writers have come to regard newsworthy weather- and climate-related extreme events as “teachable moments” that serve to illustrate the importance and immediacy of the impacts of human-induced climate change. The problem with this approach is that the attribution of extreme events to human-induced climate change is often viewed as gratuitous and labeled as fear mongering. A more effective communications strategy, in my view, is to use these events to illuminate society's increasing vulnerability to natural disasters in the face of our deteriorating planetary life-support system.

Short TitleEos Trans. AGU
Citation Key420
Community Notes

This article describes how extreme weather and climate events should be framed.  "Arguing about whether or not today's extreme events are early indicators of climate change does nothing to advance the priority of global warming and other pressing environmental issues on our national policy agenda.  The real significance of extreme events is as harbingers, not just of a changing climate but also of a changing world in which human society and the infrastructure that supports it are becoming increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters."