With superstorm Hurricane Sandy devastating much of the East Coast -- namely densely populated areas of New York and New Jersey -- global warming has made its way back into the political forefront. Although it wasn't much of a major issue during this 2012 Presidential Election, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama Thursday, he said, because of climate change. GOP candidate Mitt Romney was heckled about climate change and its relationship to the storm. And Bloomberg's Businessweek made a very loud statement about global warming and its connection to Hurricane Sandy on its cover.
Assistant managing editor and writer Paul Barrett leads the online edition of the article writing that he recognizes "it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change." Making a distinction, Barrett calls up experts in the field saying that while the storm would happen regardless of climate change or not, they believe Sandy was made stronger because of global warming factors.
Barrett goes on to call up studies detailing financial implications of natural disasters and predicting their rise. Climate denialism, he says is "both shortsighted and dangerous," and extreme storms like Sandy, the U.S. can't afford. The solution: "To limit the costs of climate-related disasters, both politicians and the public need to accept how much they’re helping to cause them." Barratt suggested carbon taxing as an idea that "must remain a part of the national debate" to help mitigate the effects of man-made global warming.
The fact still remains though that the science is still out when it comes to the relationship between climate change and its influence on hurricanes. Still, editor Josh Tyrangiel tweeted about the cover:
The New York Times' Justin Gillis wrote in an article about climate change and Sandy earlier this week that scientists "simply do not know for sure if the storm was caused or made worse by human-induced global warming." Here are a couple quotes Gillis included about this uncertainty from scientists:
“My profession hasn’t done its homework,” said Kerry A. Emanuel, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I think there’s going to be a ton of papers that come out of this, but it’s going to take a couple of years.”
“My view is that a lot of this is chance,” [NOAA scientist Kevin Trenberth] said. “A hybrid storm is certainly one which is always in the cards, and it’s one we’ve always worried about.”
Naturally, the "stupid" -- which are most likely those considered "climate deniers" -- have a response. A well-known "climate denier" Anthony Watts posted on his blog Watt's Up With That this response:
Anthony Watts' modification of the Bloomberg cover. (Image: Watts Up With That)
Although scientists would agree that warmer ocean temperatures could fuel more powerful hurricanes -- some would say the ocean temperatures this year are warmer as a result of man-made climate change -- Eric Berger, the science blogger for the Houston Chronicle, wrote in Sandy's case that its strength may be related to other factors though (Editor's note: emphasis added):
[...] the recent strengthening of Hurricane Sandy is attributable, in large measure, to baroclinic forcing. This is a technical term that represents the collision of very warm air (Sandy) with very cold air (a strong cold front moving southeast from Canada). The collision of these air masses is providing energy to Sandy.
In other words, cold air is in some sense allowing Sandy to strengthen. Cold air.
As for concerns for more frequent hurricanes, even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states in its global warming predictions that "there is less confidence in projections of the frequency of hurricanes, but the global frequency of tropical hurricanes is likely to decrease or remain essentially unchanged."
Berger, for example, supports the idea that the climate is warming and is in turn changing the weather, but still states "it is a big stretch to go from there to blaming Sandy on climate change. It’s a stretch that is just not supported by science at this time."