As we’ve discussed before, during the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney took the stage, and, pandering to the far right of his increasingly anti-scinece party, made a dismissive joke about extreme weather brought about as a result of global climate change. Romney, pointing out to his fellow Republicans that Obama not only believed in global climate change, but that he wanted to actually do something about it, got a big laugh from his predominantly white, male audience. “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans,” Romney said, pausing for a moment to bask, with a smirk on his face, in the uproarious guffaws of his fellow Republicans. The wealthy venture capitalist then went on to say that, when he took over the White House, he wouldn’t be addressing climate change, but, instead, pushing an agenda of deregulation intended to increase short-term corporate profits. For those of us who understand the very real risk posed by climate change, it was a ridiculously offensive statement, and, thankfully, it’s come back to haunt him in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, in large part due to the folks at ClimateSilence.org, who have created an incredibly powerful ad, which has already been viewed by over 300,000 people online… Here it is.
If you like this ad as much as I do, and would like to contribute toward getting it on television, the folks at ClimateSilence.org are accepting donations here.
And, before you say that this most recent hurricane had nothing to do with global warming, you might want to read this clip from the New Yorker, which references several recent scientific studies which would strongly indicate otherwise.
A couple of weeks ago, Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.” According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” The number of what Munich Re refers to as “weather-related loss events,” and what the rest of us would probably call weather-related disasters, has quintupled over the last three decades. While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”
Munich Re’s report was aimed at the firm’s clients—other insurance companies—and does not make compelling reading for a general audience. But its appearance just two weeks ahead of Hurricane Sandy seems to lend it a peculiarly grisly relevance. Sandy has been called a “superstorm,” a “Frankenstorm,” a “freakish and unprecedented monster,” and possibly “unique in the annals of American weather history.” It has already killed sixty-five people in the Caribbean, and, although it’s too early to tell what its full impact will be as it churns up the East Coast, loss estimates are topping six billion dollars.
As with any particular “weather-related loss event,” it’s impossible to attribute Sandy to climate change. However, it is possible to say that the storm fits the general pattern in North America, and indeed around the world, toward more extreme weather, a pattern that, increasingly, can be attributed to climate change. Just a few weeks before the Munich Re report appeared, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York, published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the apparent increase in extreme heat waves. Extreme summertime heat, which just a few decades ago affected much less than one per cent of the earth’s surface, “now typically covers about 10% of the land area,” the paper observed. “It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies”—i.e., heat waves—“such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.” It is worth noting that one of several forces fuelling Sandy is much-higher-than-average sea-surface temperatures along the East Coast…
[note: Thanks to Jim Egge for bringing this to my attention.]