NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

No link between global warming and hurricanes

A team of researchers conducted a survey of the peer-reviewed literature to assess the relationship between global, hurricanes and hurricane impacts. Results published by the American Meteorological Society.

CONCLUSIONS. To summarize, claims of linkages
between global warming and hurricane impacts
are premature for three reasons. First, no connection
has been established between greenhouse gas
emissions and the observed behavior of hurricanes
(Houghton et al. 2001; Walsh 2004). Emanuel (2005)
is suggestive of such a connection, but is by no means
definitive. In the future, such a connection may be
established [e.g., in the case of the observations
of Emanuel (2005) or the projections of Knutson
and Tuleya (2004)] or made in the context of other
metrics of tropical cyclone intensity and duration
that remain to be closely examined. Second, the
peer-reviewed literature reflects that a scientific
consensus exists that any future changes in hurricane
intensities will likely be small in the context
of observed variability (Knutson and Tuleya 2004;
Henderson-Sellers et al. 1998), while the scientific
problem of tropical cyclogenesis is so far from being
solved that little can be said about possible changes
in frequency. And third, under the assumptions of
the IPCC, expected future damages to society of its
projected changes in the behavior of hurricanes are
dwarfed by the influence of its own projections of
growing wealth and population (Pielke et al. 2000).
While future research or experience may yet overturn
these conclusions, the state of the peer-reviewed
knowledge today is such that there are good reasons
to expect that any conclusive connection between
global warming and hurricanes or their impacts will
not be made in the near term.
Yet, claims of such connections persist (cf. Epstein
and McCarthy 2004; Eilperin 2005), particularly in
support of a political agenda focused on greenhouse
gas emissions reduction (e.g., Harvard Medical
School 2004). But a great irony here is that invoking
the modulation of future hurricanes to justify
energy policies to mitigate climate change may prove
counterproductive. Not only does this provide a great
opening for criticism of the underlying scientific
reasoning, it leads to advocacy of policies that simply
will not be effective with respect to addressing future
hurricane impacts. There are much, much better ways
to deal with the threat of hurricanes than with energy
policies (e.g., Pielke and Pielke 1997). There are also
much, much better ways to justify climate mitigation
policies than with hurricanes (e.g., Rayner 2004).

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