Deniers take note: "IT'S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID" is from Business Week, not Al Gore
Posted November 1, 2012
With more than 90 lives lost, thousands of people still stranded, and millions still without power due to Superstorm Sandy our immediate focus as a nation is, as it should be, rescue, relief, and recovery.
But in the weeks and months ahead we must also turn our attention to learning the painful lessons Sandy should teach us. Business Week put it most bluntly.
Beyond the headline you will find a useful lesson plan:
In an Oct. 30 blog post, Mark Fischetti of Scientific American took a spin through Ph.D.-land and found more and more credentialed experts willing to shrug off the climate caveats. The broadening consensus: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.” Even those of us who are science-phobic can get the gist of that.
Sandy featured a scary extra twist implicating climate change. An Atlantic hurricane moving up the East Coast crashed into cold air dipping south from Canada. The collision supercharged the storm’s energy level and extended its geographical reach. Pushing that cold air south was an atmospheric pattern, known as a blocking high, above the Arctic Ocean. Climate scientists Charles Greene and Bruce Monger of Cornell University, writing earlier this year in Oceanography, provided evidence that Arctic icemelts linked to global warming contribute to the very atmospheric pattern that sent the frigid burst down across Canada and the eastern U.S.
If all that doesn’t impress, forget the scientists ostensibly devoted to advancing knowledge and saving lives. Listen instead to corporate insurers committed to compiling statistics for profit.
On Oct. 17 the giant German reinsurance company Munich Re issued a prescient report titled Severe Weather in North America. Globally, the rate of extreme weather events is rising, and “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” From 1980 through 2011, weather disasters caused losses totaling $1.06 trillion. Munich Re found “a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades.” By contrast, there was “an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe, and 1.5 in South America.” Human-caused climate change “is believed to contribute to this trend,” the report said, “though it influences various perils in different ways.”
So once we learn the lesson that we need to take climate change seriously, what can we learn to do about it?
One irony of Sandy is that it hit perhaps the best prepared city in America. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long recognized that climate change poses a serious threat and put in place plans to “increase the resilience of our communities, natural systems, and infrastructure to climate risks.” But Sandy taught us that the city wasn’t prepared for anything like this. Now there is a serious debate about spending billions on storm surge protection.
Ultimately though, the lesson from Sandy is that climate change preparedness can only take us so far. We also have to get serious about reducing the carbon pollution that’s fueling climate change. Hopefully that lesson won’t be lost on our political leaders.
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