Catastrophic weather report: Extremely normal

So, how much would you pay to put the brakes on devastating climate change?

Published August 8, 2007 12:20AM (EDT)

"Extreme weather the norm across globe," reads the headline of a Financial Times article reporting the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization announcement Tuesday that record-breaking "floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms" have afflicted almost every continent on the planet already in 2007.

We'll excuse the inelegant headline -- if extreme weather is the norm, can it still be considered extreme? -- and just pass on some facts.

Cyclone Gonu, the first documented cyclone in the Arabian Sea, landed in Oman on June 6 with maximum sustained winds of nearly 148km/h, affecting more than 20,000 people.

In east Asia, heavy rains in June ravaged southern China, where flooding affected more than 13.5m people; while in England and Wales the period from May to July was the wettest since records began in 1766.

Germany also saw its wettest May since countrywide observations started in 1901; in sharp contrast with the previous month, which was its driest April since 1901.

Further south, the worst flooding in six years hit Mozambique in February, while abnormally heavy and early rainfall in Sudan since the end of June has caused the Nile River and other seasonal rivers to overflow.

A series of large swell waves (3 meter-4.5 meters) swamped 68 islands in 16 atolls in the Maldives, while to the west, in Latin America, early May saw Uruguay's worst flooding since 1959.

Oh, and global land temperatures reached their highest levels in January and April since 1800, or about when we started keeping regular records.

Meanwhile, a report from the Energy Information Administration, a U.S. government agency, warns that a Senate energy bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions would cost the economy $533 billion over a period of 21 years. The usual suspects have been quick to trumpet the news as more evidence of how attempting to stop global warming will just be too painful.

Environmental economist John Whitehead points out that over a 21-year time span, for a population of 300 million, $533 billion breaks down to $85 per person per year.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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