Application of probabilistic event attribution in the summer heat extremes in the western US to emissions traced to major industrial carbon producers

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Roberto J Mera1, Myles Robert Allen2, Philip Mote3, Brenda Ekwurzel1, Peter C Frumhoff4 and David E Rupp3, (1)Union of Concerned Scientists Washington DC, Washington, DC, United States, (2)University of Oxford, Physics, Oxford, United Kingdom, (3)Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, Corvallis, OR, United States, (4)Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA, United States
Heat waves in the western US have become progressively more severe due to increasing relative humidity and nighttime temperatures, increasing the health risks of vulnerable portions of the population, including Latino farmworkers in California’s Central Valley and other socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Recent research has shown greenhouse gas emissions doubled the risk of the hottest summer days during the 2000’s in the Central Valley, increasing public health risks and costs, and raising the question of which parties are responsible for paying these costs. It has been argued that these costs should not be taken up solely by the general public through taxation, but that additional parties can be considered, including multinational corporations who have extracted and marketed a large proportion of carbon-based fuels. Here, we apply probabilistic event attribution (PEA) to assess the contribution of emissions traced to the world’s 90 largest major industrial carbon producers to the severity and frequency of these extreme heat events. Our research uses very large ensembles of regional climate model simulations to calculate fractional attribution of policy-relevant extreme heat variables. We compare a full forcings world with observed greenhouse gases, sea surface temperatures and sea ice extent to a counter-factual world devoid of carbon pollution from major industrial carbon producers. The results show a discernable fraction of record-setting summer temperatures in the western US during the 2000’s can be attributed to emissions sourced from major carbon producers.