Sandy and Katrina and Climate Change

USA Flooding in New York City as a result of Hurricane Sandy

Flooding in New York City as a result of Hurricane Sandy:Credit: Daily Telegraph

anthropogenically-induced = man-made and woman-made

It is impossible to associate any particular climatic event – such as Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy – with anthropogenically-induced warming of the surface of our planet. But nonetheless the association is difficult to remove from one’s mind.

When Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 I felt sure that the big news story would be the association with Global Warming. How could I have known it would take the US government several days to drive back into New Orleans city centre with relief supplies? This incompetence meant that the opportunity to make this association in the minds of americans – along with thousands of lives and homes – was lost.

By the time Sandy struck New York I felt sure that no one would even mention the association with Global Warming. But I was wrong. And that person was – shockingly – the Mayor of New York City and political heavyweight Michael Bloomberg. He praised Obama for his leadership on the issue of Climate Change.

“We need leadership from the White House,” Bloomberg said, “and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.”

Successful politicians are able to pull the ‘thought vapours’ of people from the air and condense them into coherent speech. And if Michael Bloomberg is already speaking on this topic you may be sure that it was already in people’s minds.

Successful scientists hedge their bets – we have expectations, but we have to acknowledge that there are things we just don’t know.

But what events such as Katrina and Sandy expose is our collective vulnerability. Whether or not these particular events were caused – even in part – by any anthropogenically-induced component, they were devastating. And even you think there is only a 10% chance that theories of anthropogenically-induced global warming are correct, one has to ask whether the many benefits of our carbon profligacy outweigh the risk that such events may become more frequent. Do you feel lucky?

It is easy to demonise the USA as an energy satan. This is nonsense and pointless. Americans are pretty much like you and me. But when the consciousness changes in the USA then we can expect changes to come quickly. Attitudes change slowly – but they are changing – and events such as Sandy – and Mayor Bloomberg’s opinion – will change a few more minds.

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