Top climate scientists have warned the world’s political leaders to get ready for more dangerous and “unprecedented extreme weather” caused by global warming.
Making preparations, they say, will save lives and money otherwise weather extremes may overwhelm some locations, making some places uninhabitable.
The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new special report on global warming and extreme weather after meeting in Kampala, Uganda.
“We need to be worried,” said one of the study’s lead authors, Maarten van Aalst, director of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre in the Netherlands.
“And our response needs to anticipate disasters and reduce risk before they happen rather than wait until after they happen and clean up afterward. ... Risk has already increased dramatically.”
Another lead author Chris Field, of Stanford University, said scientists are not quite sure which will be the biggest threat to the world because disasters are weather extremes interacting with economics and where people live.
He said that “it’s clear that losses from disasters are increasing”. And in terms of deaths, “more than 95 per cent of fatalities from the 1970s to the present have been in developing countries,” he said.
Losses are already high, running at as much as $200bn (£126bn) a year, said Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, another author.
“Global warming is increasing the risk of disaster and already makes dealing with several types of disaster, like heatwaves, more difficult. The risk will become greater as the future gets hotter,” he said.
The report said it is “virtually certain” that heatwaves are getting worse, longer and hotter, while cold spells are easing.
There is at least a two-in-three chance that heavy downpours will increase, both in the tropics and northern regions, and from tropical cyclones.
The report says that extremes in some unnamed regions at some point in the future can get so bad that they may need to be abandoned.
Such locations are likely to be in poorer countries but even in some developed northern regions of the world, such as Canada, Russia and Greenland, cities might need to move because of weather extremes and sea level rise from man-made warming, Mr van Aalst said.
“Governments are not doing a good job now protecting us from disaster in the current climate,” Mr Oppenheimer said.
Of all the weather extremes that kill and cause massive damage, he said, the worst was flooding.