The Lookout

Just step outside: More Americans convinced of climate change after extreme weather

Every summer it seems like a different kind of out-of-control weather pattern decides to strike. In the past month alone, we've experienced deadly Colorado wildfires, early-season heat waves and a wind-whipping hurricane, convincing formerly dubious Americans that climate change is actually real, according to the Associated Press.

"Many people around the world are beginning to appreciate that climate change is under way, that it's having consequences that are playing out in real time and, in the United States at least, we are seeing more and more examples of extreme weather and extreme climate-related events," Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the AP.

Climate change used to be a "nebulous concept," removed from everyday life, said Lubchenco. Not anymore. Extreme weather events have given the term actual meaning, making it more concrete. "Perceptions in the United States...are in many cases beginning to change as [people] experience something first-hand that they at least think is directly attributable to climate change," she said. She cited "skyrocketing" demand for NOAA's data from individuals and groups across America as one way to tell people are paying closer attention to the science behind the storms.

Although it's hard to say that a specific event was caused by climate change, the phenomenon does result in extreme weather incidents happening more frequently. "Where there is more energy in a system, events such as fires, heat waves and storms" will occur more often, Tim Profeta, Founding Director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University told Yahoo News. And if such episodes lead to an increase in climate awareness, well, that's a good thing, he says.

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