It goes without saying that Typhoon Haiyan is a terrible tragedy for the Philippines. But the hyperventilating that has followed, concerning the alleged “link” to climate change, has been frenzied and emotive.
We have all come to expect the climate change alarmists and green media to link any extreme weather event to AGW, despite the fact that such events happened in the past, when the planet had apparently “safe” levels of CO2.
Chip Knappenburger and Patrick Michaels put some much needed perspective on Haiyan:
Nowadays, in the aftermath of every weather-related disaster, proponents of restricting fossil fuel use in the name of halting climate change are quick to place the blame for the tragedy on human-caused climate change (i.e., industrialized nations like the U.S.). The calls to “do something” amplify.
This is happening right now in Warsaw, at the latest (19th) in a long string of U.N.-organized Climate Change Conferences aimed at getting countries to agree to some sort of action aimed at mitigating climate change.
On the conference’s opening day, an envoy form the Philippines, Yeb Sano, gave an emotional address to the delegates in which he vowed to stop eating until something was accomplished.
“I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this (conference) until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”
“We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here.”
Sano got a tear-filled standing ovation.
While the outpouring of sympathy was certainly deserved, an outpouring of action on climate change is certainly not. A story from the Associated Presscovering the events at the conference summed up the science on anthropogenic climate change and tropical cyclones pretty accurately:
Scientists say single weather events cannot conclusively be linked to global warming. Also, the link between man-made warming and hurricane activity is unclear, though rising sea levels are expected to make low-lying nations more vulnerable to storm surges.
In other words, limitations, even strict ones, on anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—the very thing that Sano seeks—will have no detectable (at least based on our current scientific understanding) impact on the characteristics of future tropical cyclones, such as Haiyan, or Sandy, or Katrina, or any other infamous storm. And as for sea level rise, projections are far more lurid than observations.
The hard numbers (from Ryan Maue’s excellent compilation) show that global tropical cyclone activity for the last 40+ years—during the time of decent observations and the time with the greatest potential human impact from greenhouse gas emissions—while showing decadal ups and downs, show little overall change. In fact, global cyclone activity has been below average for the past 5 years.
The science on tropical cyclones is complicated and ultimately unclear in terms of the influence of greenhouse gas emissions, but is quite clear when it comes to the influence of demographics and wealth vs. climate change—the former grossly dominates the latter when it comes to future tropical cyclone disasters. So, no matter what this year’s U.N. climate confab does (forecast: nothing significant), it will not result in any meaningful changes to damages from future tropical cyclones.
Category 5 storms like Haiyan, Andrew, and Camille will always pose a threat to coastal communities (and beyond) in tropical cyclone-prone areas of the globe. The best defense against them is resilient infrastructure and preparedness—characteristics surely better achieved through a free-market, than global governance. But no matter what actions are taken, more Category 5 monster storms are coming. When they arrive, the news ought to focus on where they hit, not that they hit.