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Sobering 2050 weather reports are dispatches from a warmer world

Screen capture of imagined 2050 weather report from Brazil. 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is taking a new approach to engage the public on climate change: invite television weather forecasters around the world to release weather reports from the year 2050. The reports, which can be viewed here, are based on climate science and provide a frightening visual of what life could be like in a few short decades if the world continues emitting greenhouse gases at current levels.

These videos are being launched throughout September in the lead-up to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York later this month. Over 100 Heads of State, including President Barack Obama, will gather on September 23 to discuss global action on climate change. Though the Summit is not an official U.N. negotiation, leaders will make key announcements about steps their countries will take to mitigate climate change. The summit is expected to build momentum leading up to the U.N. Conference of Parties (CoP) in Paris at the end of 2015, where a new global climate change agreement may emerge.

Many avenues exist to cut global greenhouse gas emissions but not all of them are beneficial at the community level. As global discussions on climate change mitigation progress, community-level adaptation must also be emphasized. Communities will experience the direct impacts of climate change on their economies and infrastructure—including flooding, drought, storms and volatile temperatures—and therefore must begin to adapt now to prepare for the climate of 2050. In addition, community-based, decentralized energy systems will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A strong global climate change agreement may reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions, but it will not prevent extreme weather events as a result of the warming that has already occurred.

Most recently, the U.S. Weather Channel released a mock weather report for the WMO series highlighting a hurricane submerging Miami’s South Beach, a killer heat wave in Chicago, and a persistent “mega-drought” in the Southwest. This kind of reporting, though speculative, gives us a glimpse of what we can expect as climate change causes weather to become more extreme and more erratic. U.N.-level discussions about cutting global greenhouse gas emissions and building low-carbon economies are urgently needed, but communities need to convene their own discussions on how to prepare for the climate change impacts on their infrastructure, businesses, public institutions, families and daily living.  

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