Picture NOAA National Hurricane Center shows Sandy as it approaches the eastern seaboard of the United States
by Graham Readfearn, http://www.readfearn.com, October 29, 2012
A 30-year-old man has just become the first New Yorker to be killed by the destructive force of the super-charged storm Sandy which, as I type, is moving across the eastern side of the United States. The New York Times reported how the man died when a tree fell on his house in Queens. The former Hurricane Sandy has already claimed more than 60 lives in Caribbean countries. There are something like 50 million Americans currently in the storm’s path. It seems inevitable that more people will lose their lives in the coming hours. Whatever transpires we no doubt all hope that the number of fatalities is low. But neither good fortune nor any god will decide. The death toll will be what it is, and families will grieve.
It seems insensitive to mention the billions of dollars of damage the storm will cause. It might, to some, seem insensitive to mention human-caused climate change at a time like this.
But given that neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama had the courage, the foresight or the necessary leadership qualities to be able to mention the issue in their official debates, I’d say their insensitivity is far greater than any which a freelance journo and blogger across the Pacific may be able to muster.
But the evidence would suggest that it is reckless to ignore the hand which burning coal (some of it Australia’s), oil and gas and tearing down forests has had on this storm and is having on extreme weather events across the world. Adding billions of tonnes of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year is loading the climate dice. When you roll the dice, the chances of getting extremes such as droughts, heatwaves and floods increase.
In The Conversation, scientist Gary W Yohe lists some of these recent extremes, we’ve been witnessing, including the super-storm Sandy, and suggests that we’re now living in a climate which is transitioning to something for which we don’t have any yardstick from our recent past. This is, argues Yohe, not so much a “new normal” but more a journey to somewhere much less predictable.
Writing for Mother Jones, Chris Mooney pulls together some of the ways that human activities have likely influenced Sandy, such as the unusually high sea temperatures in the Atlantic. “Warm oceans are jet fuel for hurricanes,” writes Mooney.
Also on The Conversation, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth discusses the contribution of rising sea temperatures to Sandy’s muscular gait while keeping a close eye on his wife and daughter as they evacuate New Jersey.
New York’s financial district is also “moister than it used to be” as reports come in of cars floating down Wall Street. The next few days are uncertain. But what you can guarantee is that climate science deniers will seek to downplay the role of climate change in events like Sandy, or in the US droughts, or the floods of recent years in Pakistan, Russia and Australia, or the tumbling of heat records across the US.
Late last week, PBS screened a documentary as part of their Frontline series called “Climate of Doubt,” which looked at the ongoing campaign to demonize and misrepresent the science of climate change. The show used the climate science denying think tank the Heartland Institute’s recent sixth conference on climate change as a hook. The show (watch below) interviewed many of the current protagonists of climate science denial – the “scientists” and professionals who are paid to carry out this work to confuse and fool the public, intimidate climate scientists and push their own political agenda where fossil fuel corporations can operate with near impunity in a “free market.”
Also featured in the PBS documentary was Myron Ebell, a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute which was another group active in helping to build early support for climate science denial in Australia.