Recent natural disasters caused by extreme weather have many people talking and arguing about the effect of fossil-fuel induced climate change. The enthusiasm with which this talking and arguing is conducted is mostly a good thing. However, the enthusiasm is too often based purely on political ideology instead of a real understanding of the science of weather and climate. One fundamental mistake made by many is to directly attribute a specific weather event to climate change.
Climate change did not cause so much rain to fall on New York nor did it make the Caldor fire so bad. Any of these things could have happened a century ago. What climate change does is increase the severity and frequency at which these extreme weather events happen. The overriding stamp of climate change is the ongoing ice melt and sea-level rise and the fact climate models are with increasing accuracy showing us that these things will be getting harder and harder to deal with.