Rhein on Energy and Climate

The 2008 hurricane season in the Caribbean promises to be costly.

Gustav, Hannah and Ike have forced millions of people to temporarily evacuate their homes and caused immense human suffering, loss of property and damage of infrastructure along the coastal areas in Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Cuba and Haiti.

More tropical storms are expected to follow according to NASA meteorological observation.

Tropical storms are not a new phenomenon. They have always plagued people living in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Caribbean. They are a “normal” consequence of the tropical seas warming up beyond 27° in late summer.

As air temperatures go up in the wake of climate change, Ocean temperatures follow, especially in the stretches north and south of the Equator that are traditionally struck by tropical storms. The average temperature in these waters has risen from 28.2° in 1981 to 28.5° in 2006.

The lifetime and wind speeds of tropical storms have also measurably increased during the past 30 years. While total numbers have remained constant, around 90 per year globally, the share of very strong tropical storms keeps rising.

So does the cost caused by tropical storms. Insurance companies complain about rising damage from natural disasters, especially storms and floods. It will become increasingly difficult to cover these risks without paying exorbitant premiums.

Global warming is at its very beginning. The average temperature on earth has risen by <1° since 1850; it is likely to rise by another 2° by 2100, even if humanity were to take draconian action to combat climate change.

What consequences should we draw from this worrying perspective?

First, stop denying that the rising severity of tropical storms is unrelated to climate change.
Second, make climate change a priority issue in the US election campaign.
Third, press the international community, above all the USA, to implement an effective programme for a rapid cutting of C02 emissions.

Failing to act now and decisively is bound to have dire consequences for millions of people living on the shores of the Caribbean, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Every year they will have to fear for their lives and property because all of us continue burning fossil fuel.

How many more devastating tropical storms will we have to count before Humanity draws the appropriate conclusions?

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  1. And let’s not forget China… and Japan, Australia… Europe… India… Soutwest Asia… the Arabic peninsula…

    More and more countries get industrialised and burn an increasing share of fuel, fossil or not! It is a global problem – even if it is common wisdom that USA and China are the most reluctant ones to taking measures to save fuel and energy, and depollute…

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