Flooding, fires, famine: Our world is increasingly vulnerable – our leaders are now quick to admit it

Just hours after Storm Ida caused deadly flooding across America’s North East, President Joe Biden said it was “yet another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here.”

“Global warming is upon us,” said New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

“We are in a whole new world now,” said New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio.

Storm Ida: New York flooding live updates

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People rescued on dinghy in New York floods

Given what we know about the science, these might have seemed obvious statements.

But make no mistake, it is a departure. Suddenly, the gap between extreme weather events happening and people daring to link it to climate change is shortening.

It used to be days, sometimes weeks, and always couched in elaborate caveats.

More on Hurricane Ida

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  • Storm Ida: Joe Biden warns ‘climate crisis is here’ after 29 killed in flooding

  • US weather news latest: New York City suffers wettest hour on record as Storm Ida hits – with state of emergency declared

  • Hurricane Ida may not have been as devastating as feared but a different crisis is playing out for many people

  • Hurricane Ida: Man missing after alligator bites off his arm in Louisiana floodwaters

  • Hurricane Ida rips at the jazz heart of New Orleans

Now it is happening as soon as they reach the microphone.

Perhaps this is because of the increasingly urgent and clear science.

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Flood water cascades into New York subway

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‘Screaming’ motorists trapped in New York floods

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently said that it was unequivocal that human behaviour has warmed our planet, and that this is driving more frequent and more severe heat and rainfall in particular.

Meanwhile, the relatively new field of attribution science – the discipline of directly linking wild weather to climate change – is growing in confidence and speed.

Within days of North America’s pacific northwest heatwave in the summer, scientists said it would have been virtually impossible with global warming.

And the evidence is all around us.

Floods in Western Europe.

Fires in Turkey.

Famine in Madagascar.

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‘Ash rain and smoke haze’ in Turkey

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World’s first ‘climate change famine’

Our world is increasingly vulnerable, and leaders are increasingly willing to say so. A huge amount of effort is being expended to work out what to do.

And as things get worse, there will be more and more strain on the finite resources available to tackle the problem.

There are the costly and necessary measures to adapt to the change that is already here, from billions spent protecting Lower Manhattan, to shoring up the coastlines and raising buildings in low-lying island and coastal communities.

Flooding in New York's Penn Station during record-breaking rainfall
Image:Flooding in New York’s Penn Station during record-breaking rainfall
First responders pull local residents to safety in Mamaroneck, New York
Image:First responders pull local residents to safety in Mamaroneck, New York

And then there are the colossal investments needed to reduce emissions and to decarbonise our world.

The two areas – adaption and mitigation – shouldn’t compete. But they will.

We are just weeks away from the crucial UN climate summit COP26, where funding will be a central issue.

And as countries rich and poor struggle with the real-time effects of climate change on their doorsteps, the tensions over who gets what and how much will only increase.

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The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

Hosted by Anna Jones, it follows Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show also highlights solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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