CANBERRA, Australia – Increasingly common experiences with extreme climate-related events such as the Colorado wildfires, a record warm spring and preseason hurricanes have convinced many Americans climate change is a reality, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Friday.
Many Americans had previously seen climate change as a "nebulous concept" removed from them in time and geography, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco.
"Many people around the world are beginning to appreciate that climate change is under way, that it's having consequences that are playing out in real time and, in the United States at least, we are seeing more and more examples of extreme weather and extreme climate-related events," Lubchenco told a university forum in the Australian capital of Canberra.
"People's perceptions in the United States at least are in many cases beginning to change as they experience something first-hand that they at least think is directly attributable to climate change," she said.
Among the extreme events, she noted record-breaking wildfires in the West in the past two years, including in Colorado, where blazes recently damaged or destroyed nearly 350 homes and killed two people.
Last spring was the warmest in the Unites States since 1895, when records were first kept. For only the third time since hurricane records started in 1851, two hurricanes formed over the North Atlantic before the season officially began June 1.
Lubchenco said that while it was impossible to attribute any single weather event to climate change, the pattern of extreme events was consistent with forecast consequences of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
She said her agency was experiencing "skyrocketing" demand for climate change data and projections from individuals, businesses, communities and planners across the United States.