Just hours after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Republic of the Philippines, leaving corpses scattered across the country, representatives of governments around the world gathered in Warsaw, Poland on Monday for the latest round of climate talks.
The winds from Haiyan were estimated to be at least 195 miles an hour when it made landfall, which would make it the most powerful storm ever recorded. It’s projected that as many as 10 million people will be affected by the typhoon, with approximately 10,000 already reported dead.
In Warsaw, Yeb Saño, Climate Change Commissioner, Philippines, renewed his call to the world for action in limiting greenhouse gases, and called out those who refuse to acknowledge that action must be taken to limit the devastation that climate change has already caused, and will continue to:
To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.
The science has given us a picture that has become much more in focus. The IPCC report on climate change and extreme events underscored the risks associated with changes in the patterns as well as frequency of extreme weather events. Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that sea temperatures were between 0.5 and 1 degree warmer than normal as Haiyan formed.
“Once [cyclones] do form, they get most of their energy from the surface waters of the ocean,” said Professor Will Steffen, a member of Australia’s Climate Council. “We know sea-surface temperatures are warming pretty much around the planet, so that’s a pretty direct influence of climate change on the nature of the storm.”
Paradoxically, climate change may result in fewer tropical cyclones that are increasingly powerful.
As the evidence of climate change’s manmade origin grows, coordinated activity to limit greenhouse gases has been stifled by a powerful core of interests, mostly made up of those who profit from carbon pollution.
“But we don’t act, and for a particular reason, one that will be clear to those who read the Gospels. Our richest people don’t want to, because it would reduce their wealth somewhat,” said Bill McKibben — the eminent climate change activist and founder of 350.org — in a stirring sermon at New York City’s Riverside Church in late April.
Photo: Mans Unides via Flickr