Extreme Weather, Economics and the Arctic

Last Friday, the Guardian published a short piece by two colleagues and me in its EcoAudit ‘Why has British weather been so bad?’

Here is the complete piece that we sent to the Guardian, which includes a bit more about the scientific programme which is just starting to try to understand and better model the impacts of Arctic change:

The unprecedented occurrence of severe weather in the UK throughout this winter
has led to a vigorous discussion as to whether this is linked to Arctic processes,
specifically a repositioning of the jet stream due to atmospheric circulation changes
brought about by the accelerating retreat of sea ice. If this link is confirmed then we
can only expect more and worse extreme weather in future years, since sea ice is
retreating so fast that the summer ice cover is likely to completely disappear within a
decade or so, maybe even this year or next. Extreme weather carries significant
economic costs.

Today, in Brussels, a multidisciplinary team of Arctic researchers and integrated
assessment modellers began discussions on how best to study these very questions.
We begin from the premise, recognised by the European Commission, that the
massive changes occurring in the Arctic are of global significance and affect the
whole planet with potentially vast economic implications. They are drivers of global
change rather than simply effects. Our hope is that by the intense scientific effort of
multidisciplinary research projects we will be able to understand what is happening
quickly enough to be able to mitigate unnecessary future economic impacts.

Peter Wadhams, University of Cambridge
Chris Hope, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
Gail Whiteman, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

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