DOHA, Qatar — Though it's tricky to link a single weather event to climate change, Hurricane Sandy was probably not a coincidence but an example of the extreme weather events that are likely to strike the U.S. more often as the world gets warmer, the U.N. climate panel's No. 2 scientist said Tuesday.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predicted that as stronger and more frequent heat waves and storms become part of life, people will stop asking whether global warming played a role.
The new question should probably progressively become: Is it possible that climate warming has not influenced this particular event? he told The Associated Press on the sidelines of U.N. climate negotiations in Qatar.
After years of disagreement, climate scientists and hurricane experts have concluded that as the climate warms, there will be fewer total hurricanes but they will be stronger and wetter.
It is not correct to say Sandy was caused by global warming, but the damage caused by Sandy was worse because of sea level rise, said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. He said the sea level in New York City is a foot higher than a century ago because of man-made climate change.
On the second day of a two-week conference in Doha, the talks fell back to the bickering between rich and poor countries over how to divide the burden of cutting emissions.
Van Ypersele said the scientific backing for man-made climate change is now so strong that it can be compared to the consensus behind the principles of gravity.
Climate change skeptics say IPCC scientists have in the past overestimated the effect of the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere and underplayed natural cycles of warming and cooling. Others have claimed the authors, who aren't paid for their work, exaggerated the effects that climate change will have on the environment and on human life.