Foreign Policy Blogs

Hurricane Season

With Hurricane Dean going to slam into the Yucatan tonight, with winds now at 150 mph and maybe intensifying, it's not a bad time to consider some of the discussion about hurricanes.  (If you like to track hurricanes, there's no better place than the National Hurricane Center, with its terrific graphics and its up-to-the-hour information.)

I saw the aftermath of Wilma in Mexico a year and a half ago.  The beaches were severely eroded, there were still blown-down trees in a lot of places, and reconstruction was going on everywhere.  Wilma caused $3 billion in damage in 2005 and this storm could be stronger.  Katrina, of course, is still very much on people's minds, certainly with the folks in New Orleans, as hurricane season turns up a notch.  I'm convinced that Katrina was a wake-up call to millions of Americans on climate change.  The evidence of the devastation, all along the Gulf Coast, was just too stark to ignore.  Whether or not there was a direct link between climate change and Katrina is moot, certainly.  But there is no doubt that the potential for fury from our winds and waters was made eminently manifest.

What we do know is that hotter water makes for stronger hurricanes.  We also know that the oceans have heated up in recent decades.  Now an article from last week in the "Daily Nebraskan" says:  The number of Atlantic hurricanes in an average season has doubled in the last century because of climate change, according to a new study.  (I don't think anyone can accuse this blog of relying solely on the MSM.)  The timely paper that the article references is called "Heightened Tropical Cyclone Activity in the North Atlantic: Natural Variability or Climate Trend?" and it's in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.  The authors conclude from their findings "that the overall trend in SSTs and tropical cyclone and hurricane numbers is substantially influenced by greenhouse warming."

I referenced Chris Mooney's book, Storm World, in a post from last month – Surfin' the Blogs.  Chris writes eloquently about the intersection of science and politics.  Chris also has a climate change blog, The Intersection.  "Nature" has a superb climate change blog, "Climate Feedback."  They recently had a discussion of Storm World.

Who else has a view?  The insurance companies!  Premiums are rising fast in Florida.  See Howls over hurricane insurance from the "Christian Science Monitor" today.  Private insurers are running for high ground and leaving the state to pick up the tab.  So, would you guess that the insurance companies think there are going to be more storms and more intense storms at that?  I would.  If you still think this is a shuck, go to the webpage on climate change for Lloyd's of London.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change