2016 was the hottest year on Earth since modern records began in 1880, and 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001.
Should we be surprised by this?
Dr Ana Bucher, a climate change specialist at the World Bank, says no. Such extremes of climate may seem shocking, but we should not see them as surprising. Under the influence of climate change, extreme events that would once have been rare are predicted to become increasingly common.
The extra energy in the climate system acts like a weight on a gaming die, tilting the distribution of outcomes towards heatwaves, floods, droughts and hurricanes.
These changes affect everyone. They matter for a farmer in Bolivia, who may find he doesn’t have enough water for this crops as Andean glaciers retreat. They also matter for governments, which must plan ‘climate-smart’ infrastructure: building away from coastal areas, establishing flood protections, or taking other measures to defend vulnerable locations.
Such initiatives must be planned now for decades in the future, and must be able to weather the passage of time. Good data - both current observations and forecasts, are critical in helping countries make the right decisions that will protect their citizens for years to come.
As we discover on this week’s edition of ‘Between 2 Geeks’ effectively communicating future scenarios can be difficult - especially when they challenge our tendency to stick to the status quo.
So as climate change progresses, and “anomalous” events become common, understanding risk, and planning accordingly, will become more important than ever.
This episode of Between 2 Geeks is hosted by Tariq Khokhar & Andrew Whitby, and produced by Richard Miron. You can chat with us on twitter with the hashtag #Between2Geeks, listen to more episodes on the World Bank Soundcloud Channel and subscribe to “World Bank’s Podcasts” in your podcast app or on iTunes.