Attribution science can help us understand how climate change affects the weather. Otto wants to use her reports to hold people responsible for bad weather. She says that they have begun to bridge the knowledge gap between what they can say scientifically and what has been used in the past. There are legal cases going on in Germany and Brazil.
OTTO COFOUNDED World Weather Attribution is a project with the oceanographer and Climatologist. Otto thought that the main role of weather Attribution was to untangle the complexity of weather systems to quantify how much climate change was affecting extreme weather. Climate models can be used to attribute weather events to climate change, but no one has tried to use the science to report on recent disasters.
The first real-time study was published in July of 2015. Climate change made a heat wave in Europe almost certain. Each study was published within weeks of the disaster. Attribution studies can help us plan for the future. Attribution helps us untangle drivers of disasters and helps us use extreme events as a lens in society to see where we are vulnerable.
Pakistan has had a devastating monsoon season in the past. Otto and her colleagues were worried about the wording of their report as their models couldn't reproduce the extreme precipitation accurately. They could not say how much of the increase in precipitation was due to climate change. Otto says that the role of climate change may be smaller than first thought. Poverty, poor river management systems, and the proximity of farms and homes to flood plains were identified as major risk factors in the report. The difference between an event having no impact and a catastrophe is vulnerability.
When World Weather Attribution says that climate change makes extreme weather more likely, it makes headlines, but the opposite result can be useful to regions facing disasters. An investigation found that the chance of low precipitation hadn't increased due to human-caused climate change. Otto said that knowing this gives agency back to countries. There isn't anything you can do unless the global community gets its act together. Everything you do to reduce your vulnerability actually makes a huge difference if you know that climate change isn't playing a major role.
Governments are not the only ones interested in the results of studies. Courts are paying attention as well. The New South Wales Environment Protection Agency was found not to have fulfilled its duty to protect the environment from climate change. One of Otto's studies was used in a report commissioned by the court but she only found out about it after one of the lawyers involved in the case sent her an email. She says it's nice to see when a study has real-world impact.
It's possible that a disaster was made more severe because of climate change, but it's also possible that someone is to blame. Richard Heede has been looking through archives for decades to estimate companies' carbon emissions. The Carbon Majors is a database of the world's biggest pollutioners. According to the Carbon Majors report, half of all industrial emissions since 1988 could be traced to just 25 corporate or state owned entities. Saudi Aramco is responsible for 4.5 percent of the world's industrial greenhouse gas emissions.