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Has Global Warming increased the toll of disasters?
No mainstream scientist would question that human activity has had an effect on the Earth’s climate. Few doubt that it is the major issue facing humanity in the 21st Century. Due to the magnitude of the problem and its consequences, it is no surprise that debate about the extent of its effects and the best solutions has become a hot topic in the media.
A report in The Sunday Times on 24 January claimed that the United Nations climate science panel (IPCC) wrongly linked global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. Politicians took this message into the mainstream, with President Barack Obama, saying last autumn: ‘More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.’, but was this based on sound science?
This debate has continued ever since, both in the media and online, with two climate experts coming head-to-head. Roger Pielke Junior, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, has attacked the IPCC for including in one of its reports a reference to an abstract in 2006, that indicated economic losses from disasters increased between 1970 and 2005. Bob Ward, policy and communications Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, claims the link between extreme weather events and climate change is clear, and that criticisms about the evidence for an increase in disaster losses is nothing new and is merely a repetition of criticisms that date back to 2006 because the IPCC's procedures for reviewing scientific work is currently under the spotlight.
We are delighted that these two leading figures in this discussion have agreed to a debate at short notice here at the Royal Institution, so come along to join in the conversation about a key issue for the future of the planet.
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