Researcher Michael Wehner at the Computational Research Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory spoke to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at a panel about “extreme event attribution,” which is the ability to look at extreme weather events and determine the role of human-caused climate change in their impact.
Committee Chair Tom Carper of Delaware asked Wehner about the 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave, which struck the northwest of the U.S. and western Canada, causing record temperatures of over 121 degrees Fahrenheit in British Columbia, and killed over 900 people.
Wehner said he considered the heat wave a “a teachable moment for climate scientists,” and pointed out that at least 20 papers have already been written about this disaster, which is “probably the most studied extreme weather event of all time,” including 3 of his own. He went on to say that if he had been asked “before that event when it would be 120 degrees in Canada,” he would have said “not for a long time,” “about 2060.”
When asked to define the exact role of manmade climate change, he said it increased the temperate at least two degrees and possibly up to four, which, he acknowledged does not sound like much, but “a small change from like 110 degrees to 114 degrees actually has a high, a large effect on the number of people that die.”