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Attributing weather extremes to 'climate change': a review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-511
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Published5 Jun 2014

King's Authors


Over the last 30 years, scientific research has increasingly implicated human activities in contemporary regional- to global-scale climatic change. Over the last decade, this research has extended to the detection of the fingerprint of human activities on individual extreme weather events. Is it possible to say that this or that weather extreme was ‘caused by’ human activities? Pursuing answers to this question raises many difficult philosophical, epistemological and political issues. In this progress report, I survey the nascent science of extreme weather event attribution by examining the field in four stages: motivations for extreme weather attribution, methods of attribution, some example case studies and the politics of weather event attribution. There remain outstanding political dangers and obstacles for extreme weather attribution if it is to be used, as some claim it can and should be, for guiding climate adaptation investments, for servicing the putative loss and damage agenda of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or for underpinning legal claims for liability for damages caused by extreme weather.

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