National Geographic : 2012 Sep
extreme weather. An exceptional heat wave in Europe in 2003 took at least 35,000 lives; a later analysis found that climate change had doubled the odds of such a disaster. A erward French cit- ies set up air-conditioned shelters and identi ed older people who would need transportation to the shelters. When another heat wave hit France in 2006, the death rate was two-thirds lower. Similarly, a er a tropical storm killed as many as 500,000 people in Bangladesh in 1970, the government there developed an early warning system and built basic concrete shelters for evacuated families. When cyclones hit today, the death count stays in the thousands. Weather disasters are like heart attacks, says Jay Gulledge. "When your doctor advises you about how to avoid a heart attack, he doesn't say, Well, you need to exercise, but it's OK to keep smoking," he says. e smart approach to extreme weather is to attack all the risk factors, by designing crops that can survive drought, buildings that can resist oods and high winds, policies that discourage people from building in dangerous places---and of course, by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. "We know that warming of the Earth's surface is putting more moisture in the atmosphere. We've measured it. e satellites see it," Gulledge says. So the chances for extreme weather are go- ing nowhere but up. We need to face that reality, Oppenheimer says, and do the things we know can save lives and money. "We don't have to just stand there and take it." j n Educational Note National Geographic has free educational resources about weather for students, teachers, and families at natgeoed.org/weather.