Despite the fact that experts discredit any link between Hurricane
Katrina and global warming, the media continue to talk about it in
print and on at least four major TV networks.
Mark Phillips on the September 9 CBS Evening News analyzed the Dutch method for dealing with flooding, as half of that country would be under water if there were a four-meter increase in sea level. The country has a complex system of levees and barriers, including gigantic and ingenious moving arches that can be swung out into the river and then sunk there to block any incoming storm surge. Phillips made the connection to global warming: With climate change, rising sea levels and more severe storms in the future, the Dutch think they'll have to close this barrier every three or four years.
Jacqui Jeras, a meteorologist on CNN, asked on the September 6 Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees: What's going on? Some say it's just a coincidence. Others blame global warming. Many climatologists say it's a complicated, long-term weather cycle. There are plenty of questions that even with today's technology cannot be answered.
Brit Hume on the August 30 Fox Special Report with Brit Hume raised the question: Well, I think that people living in this country, who have vivid memories of hurricanes such as Andrew and others, have the sense, at least, that we have had an increase in these killer hurricanes, that they seem more frequent, in recent years, particularly this year, there seems to have been a lot of them and they might be tempted to believe that, well, you know, something's causing this. Why not global warming?
Why not global warming? According to the New York Times on August 30, Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming. But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught 'is very much natural,' said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.
But newspeople on CNN, NBC, CBS and Fox News, as well as various others continue to discuss links between global warming and the latest hurricane as they have for more than a decade.
Robert Bazells August 29 claim on NBC Nightly News took the approach that more large storms will be forthcoming. Even with its slight weakening, Katrina was one of the biggest ever, and many scientists say we can expect such storms more often as global warming increases sea temperatures around the world, he said.
Bazell didnt attempt to explain how huge storms have happened in the past, if global warming is just now becoming a problem. Destructive hurricanes are a part of American life. Two hurricanes in 1893 killed around 2,000 people each. In 1900 the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history (until official results form Katrina come in) killed 6,000 of 37,000 residents of Galveston, Texas, or 16 percent of the town. In 1928 a hurricane hit West Palm Beach and killed between 1,800 and 3,500 people.
That bit of history was shoved aside by writer Mike Tidwell in his September 4 appearance on NBCs Meet the Press. Tidwell, whose writing has appeared in The Washington Post, is author of Bayou Farewell, which, according to the publisher Random House is part travelogue, part environmental expos. Host Tim Russert simply introduced Tidwell by mentioning the book and ignoring Tidwells personal agenda. PBS, where Tidwell also appeared, did a better job of explaining his politics. According to the PBS Web site, Tidwell founded and now directs the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to fighting global warming.
Naturally, Tidwell linked Katrina to his own advocacy position. Right now, because of global climate change, the Bush administration's own studies say we will get between one and three feet of sea level rise worldwide because of our use of fossil fuels, he said on the NBC show.
CNNs Jack Cafferty cited an expert used in The Washington Post to link global warming and the hurricane. In his September 6 appearance on the Situation Room, Cafferty referred to a geophysicist by the name of Klaus Jacob. According to Cafferty, He says the city of New Orleans will keep sinking and global sea levels will continue to rise because of global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.
Yet according to the past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, Dr. Patrick Michaels, the increase in hurricane activity is not caused by global warming, but rather the law of averages. On the August 30 Special Report with Brit Hume, Michaels used science to make his point. Well, again, the problem is, when you do science, and you make hypotheses, you've got to test global temperatures against global hurricanes, not against Atlantic hurricanes, Michaels said. Yes, Atlantic hurricane frequency has increased since the late 1990s. But the fact of the matter is, it was quite low for several decades, ending about 1995, 1998, or so. He added: We were below the long-term mean for several decades. We've now come up to run above the long-term mean. And when you add several years of below and several years of above, you know what you get, Brit? Average!
Hurricane strength varies from storm to storm and year to year. The formation of a hurricane needs various components to come together. In USA Today on September 6, Elizabeth Weise included both viewpoints. She talked with Gary Yohe, an economics professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, who says rising temperatures one degree in the past 50 years are causing the hurricanes that do form to be stronger and longer-lasting, and therefore cause more damage. Yet Robert Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami from 1987 to 1995, disagreed. He doesnt believe there's any solid evidence that Katrina was strengthened by global warming and said that anything we've seen so far is not outside of what has occurred in the past.
Others on the left are also blaming Katrina on global warming. Robert Kennedy Jr. stated on his blog Well, the science is clear. This month, a study published in the journal Nature by a renowned MIT climatologist linked the increasing prevalence of destructive hurricanes to human-induced global warming. Now we are all learning what its like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and now Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.
Germanys minister of the environment, Jurgen Trittin, stated The American president has closed his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes such as Katrina in other words, disasters caused by a lack of climate protection measures can visit on his country.
Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was interviewed on CNNs American Morning on September 4. He stated, And we've got to realize that global warming is a phenomena that's going to keep these hurricanes coming at us, until we begin to get a little more control of the atmosphere. No counter point or objection was raised.
Jesse Jackson, on the September 5 Lou Dobbs Tonight, said, So I think the bigger issue here is in light of the global warming, in light of our coastal vulnerability, how should we address the issue of national security and alertness from this day forward? CNNs Lou Dobbs replied, Yes, I couldn't agree with you more.
The lefts blame on global warming and other culprits has created a backlash. The Washington Post on September 5 quoted National Review columnist David Frums frustration on the matter: The disaster was caused by the Bush administration's failure to protect the environment from global warming ... no, no, it was caused by the administration's refusal to manipulate the environment by funding more levees to control the Mississippi River ... it's Iraq, no it's budget cuts, no it's wetlands, and on and on and on. Good God, what is wrong with these people? Will they ever learn to see somebody else's misfortune as something more than their political opportunity?
Global warming is not the culprit behind Katrina. Hurricanes routinely affect the New Orleans area. James West from USA Today on May 17, 2005, looked at Louisiana's stormy past: From 1900 to 1996, 25 hurricanes, including 12 with winds faster than 111 mph, have hit Louisiana, says the National Hurricane Center. Many more storms hit neighboring states of Texas and Mississippi. On average, a tropical storm or hurricane is expected to strike somewhere along Louisiana's coast about once a year with a hurricane possible once every three years ... Several well-known hurricanes have hit Louisiana. These include Andrew, Audrey, Betsy, Camille in addition to the unnamed August Hurricane of 1940, the September Hurricane of 1915, the Cheniere Caminanda Hurricane of 1893, the Isle Dernieres Hurricane of 1856, and the Racer's Storm of 1837.