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Katrina and Global Warming

The media is now finally picking up the angle of global warming. A very strongly worded editorial by Ross Gelspan in today’s Boston Globe argues Katrina’s real cause is global warming (along with flooding in Mumbai, heavy snows in SoCal, etc). The choice quote:

Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fox News counters with the loveable Pat Michaels, a UVA professor and CATO wonk, to summarize the research. (Note that he used the words: stastically significant, explanatory variable, variability explained by, and concomitant, showing why he is a professor and not a broadcaster). For the skeptical, see the $325K that ExxonMobil paid his organizations in the 2002-3.

I won’t delve into the science except to try and focus on what the real issues are for both the left and the right.

  1. Sea level is rising. The storm was by all counts not as bad as expected. The real lesson of Katrina is that the most prolific damage, human displacement, and economic cost came with the flooding, not the storm. This is the real worry for cities around the world with populations close to sea level. For the Bay Area, that means Martinez and Alameda could easily look like the images you see on TV today.
  2. Global Warming means more energy in storm systems. Hurricanes depend on warm water to build energy, and warmer water is leading to more intense storms (see Kerry Emanuel’s July 2005 Study in nature, release).
  3. We must act now. Science knows global warming is coming, but much like the city of New Orleans, we refuse to take pre-emptive action, choosing instead to deal with the consequences when they arrive. We all feel terrible about the death and destruction of today; lets use this opportunity to make sure this doesn’t happen again…all around the world.
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