An Associated Press article entitled “Katrina Reignites Global Warming Debate” echoes what many of us are asking. How much of this catastrophe can be blamed on human activities?
As a scientist, my first thought is that a single datum does not make a theory. But there is no question that this storm adds support to the idea that global warming will be very costly indeed. The fact that the Gulf of Mexico was running about one degree Celsius (one to two degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal was clearly a factor in Katrina’s remarkably fast and severe development. We may be in a natural cycle that makes severe storms more common, but it is reasonable to surmise that the warmer climate is exacerbating that effect.
Furthermore, as a number of books over the past several years (see below) have made increasingly clear, it is getting harder to dismiss human activity, especially the combustion of fossil fuels, as a major culprit. It is finally time to recognize that we can no longer afford to listen to those who misrepresent science in support of their political agendas.
So the next time someone tells me to cool my rhetoric because global warming may have beneficial effects for the United States, I’ll have a one-word retort: “Katrina.”
Books on climate change reviewed at The Science Shelf:
Climate Crash: Abrupt Climate Change and What It Means for Our Future by John D. Cox
The Change in the Weather: People, Weather, and the Science of Climate by William K. Stevens
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850 by Brian Fagan
The Coming Storm Extreme Weather and Our Terrrifying Future by Bob Reiss
Hurricane Watch by Dr. Bob Sheets and Jack Williams