Typhoon Haiyan in perspective

Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan

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.



  1. Delegates could cancel a few cocktail parties and dinners and direct savings to Appeals. But I doubt this will happen. These junkets are just too good and something not to miss.

  2. Poor old Yeb Sano, Philippines Climate Commissioner, is going on a hunger strike at the Warsaw climate talks to highlight ‘global climate change’.

    Unfortunately for Yeb, it’s not climate change that has caused so much devastation but fragile infrastructure after years of neglect and corruption.

    Before Yeb starts to criticize the rest of the developed world he should look at his countries own politicians who have for years syphoned money for much needed infrastructure into their own pockets.

    Philippines latest ‘Pork Barrel’ corruption scandal Involves politicians stealing up to half the money being allocated to local (infrastructure) projects.

    • The daughter of Janet Lim Napoles, a business woman who helped embezzle millions of dollars into Philippine politicians pockets, swimming in a bathtub of Philippine Pesos, syphoned from infrastructure projects.

      There’s your problem right there!

      • Cheyne Gordon says:

        Not to mention ignoring the most cost-effective means we have for reducing poverty: Family Planning.
        Millions of poor people, with no access to this basic right, living in shoddy hovels.
        The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for.

        • Family planning doesn’t work for those in poverty.
          Family planning is a middle class construct.
          Besides, just exactly who do you suppose should take responsibility for keeping it in their pants?
          In case you haven’t noticed, China, India and Africa are not Catholic.
          But then, it’s always easy to blame the Catholic church for everything. Were it not for Catholics, the Philippines would be a prosperous, advanced, non-corrupt country not the third world place it is at present.
          Just like global warming, the Catholic church caused Tropical Cyclone Haiyan.
          You’re right: It does have a lot of explaining to do.

  3. luisadownunder says:

    Tropical Cyclone Haiyan was a Category 5 over the ocean, where it formed. It was only a Category 4 when it reached the mainland of the Philippines.

    Most cyclones are a category 3-4. Tropical cyclone events happen, on average, every 2 years. Nothing new here, folks.

    The expected death toll of 10,000 is really only 2,000. An enormous loss of life but considering where these people live (cardboard boxes over corrugated iron sheets over cardboard boxes), is it any wonder winds of over 175kms per hour can devastate whole towns?

    Australia is hit by tropical cyclones every year between November and March, yet proper building by-laws are in place for anyone building on the coastline, or for that matter, anywhere.

    And if Yeb Sano was so concerned for his country, could he not have just stayed at home and gone to help the poor miserable people living in cardboard shanty towns instead of going on a junket? Does the Philippines really need a Climate Commissioner? He is going on a protest fast? Sure I’ll bet. In between the champagne and the call girls.


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