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From Snowstorms to Heat Waves, How Global Warming Causes Extreme Weather and Climate Instability

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AMY GOODMAN: Much of the East Coast is still struggling to recover from the massive blizzard that slammed into hundreds of cities and towns from the Carolinas to Maine the day after Christmas. Six states-Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia-declared states of emergency. The storm buried cities in more than two feet of snow and unleashed winds of up to 80 miles per hour. Thousands of passengers have been stranded during the busy holiday season with thousands of flights as well as train and bus routes canceled.

It was a grimly fitting end to 2010, which was characterized by extreme weather from start to finish, with earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts. In Pakistan, massive flooding submerged one-fifth of the country under water. In Russia, a record heat wave sparked wildfires that left 15,000 people dead. In Niger, first a severe drought threatened widespread famine, then floods left more than 100,000 homeless. In Europe, heavy snow and blizzards threw air traffic into turmoil. Deadly floods and mudslides killed thousands in China, India, Venezuela, Indonesia and many other countries. Meanwhile, preliminary data show that 18 countries broke their records for the hottest day ever. In fact, 2010 may go down as the hottest on record worldwide, this according to the World Meteorological Organization.

While TV networks blare the two words "extreme weather," what about another two: global warming? Dr. Paul Epstein is associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. He's co-author of the forthcoming book Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It. He's joining us via Democracy Now! video stream from his home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Dr. Epstein, welcome to Democracy Now! Let's get an assessment from you. One article said, "Bundle up. It's global warming." Relate the two-the freezing weather to global warming.

DR. PAUL EPSTEIN: Good morning, Amy. Good to be with you.

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