Typhoon HAIYAN and Climate Change

Today’s issue of the Globe & Mail carried lengthy commentary on the Philippines tragedy, the extraordinary devastation and high death toll caused by Typhoon Haiyan.  There was not one sentence linking Haiyan to climate change.

The Toronto Star also carried numerous articles about Haiyan, in which there was a short reference to the remarks of Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the COP19 talks in Warsaw in which she referred to the “sobering reality” . . . of Typhoon Haiyan.

The Star explained that scientists are unwilling to link a single storm to global warming, as the link between warming and hurricane activity is unclear. The Star also commented:

“Even by the standards of the Philippines, however, Haiyan is an epic catastrophe. Its winds were among the strongest ever recorded, and it appears to have killed more people than the previous deadliest Philippine storm, Thelma, in which about 5,100 people died in the central Philippines in 1991.”

The problem is that the Fifth Assessment Report released by the International Panel on Climate Change is very guarded in its attribution of extreme weather events to climate change.  This caution may be the wisest course in the long run.  However, as we explained in our commentary “Can Science be trusted”, the lack of a connection means that members of the public will continue to believe that science is not settled.

Ecoearth, a climate change Website, set out the common sense conclusion to be drawn from Haiyan.

“The Typhoon Haiyan super storm, coming in quick succession after Hurricane Sandy and widespread evident climate weirding, illustrates clearly that abrupt climate change intensified extreme weather is surging, and may already be runaway. We need to know the probability that such risks are growing exponentially and whether they can be stopped. “

Ecoearth gives people a chance to pressure the IPCC by subscribing to a letter addressed to its Chairperson, Rajendra Pachauri.  The letter states:

“Typhoon Haiyan – believed to be the biggest storm to make landfall on record – clearly demonstrates the risk posed by abrupt climate change intensified extreme super storms. Yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the United Nations science body that assesses the state of climate science – is failing to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment that takes into account amplifying positive feedbacks and worse case scenarios. Without such a transparent and comprehensive climate risk assessment, that is free of government interference – the world finds it difficult to assess climate risk – and is unlikely to embrace urgent emissions cuts, protect and restore ecosystems, and implement a global carbon tax. Please demand such reforms at the IPCC.”

To subscribe to this letter go to this site, where the full text of the letter and the numerous intended recipients can be found.

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