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David Fickling

Yes, You Can Blame Bad Storms on Climate Change

The question is no longer an unanswerable hypothetical.

Hurricane Florence moves toward the U.S. east coast.

Hurricane Florence moves toward the U.S. east coast.

Photographer: NOAA/Getty Images

There’s a familiar refrain that goes up when extreme weather events bear down on population centers, as Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut are now doing in the western Atlantic and Pacific Oceans: While carbon emissions from human activity may be causing a general warming, it’s impossible to draw a direct link between any one event and climate change.

That’s a comforting thought. Droughts, hurricanes, floods and heatwaves have been a feature of the global climate since long before humans walked the earth. Who’s to say whether this latest round of disasters is a result of our industrial and agricultural practices, or simply the normal weather variations of a chaotic atmosphere?