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Are Hurricanes Getting Worse?
Sep 12, 2018 at 02:49 PM
Photo by WikiImages

The Quick Facts

  • Hurricane Florence is currently a powerful hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean, threatening the Southeastern United States and the U.S. Mid-Atlantic states.
  • The storm system acquired tropical storm strength on September 1st, and gained enough strength by September 10th to be classified as a Category 4 major hurricane.
  • The National Hurricane Center’s projected track has Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast from Thursday night until landfall Saturday morning or so.
  • Florence has estimated wind speeds above 130 mph, and it is forecasted to dump feet of rain on the region. 
  • Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have declared states of emergency and ordered mandatory evacuations along the coast.

Food For Thought

Is climate change creating more dangerous hurricanes? Will Hurricane Florence have an effect on U.S. energy and climate policy?

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The Baltimore Sun

Hurricane Florence may reshape the climate change debate

Editorial Board
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Our Commentary

This editorial from The Baltimore Sun includes these types of opinions:

  • Hurricane Florence may pose a threat to the Trump Administration’s energy policies and EPA rollbacks, because it is “it is safe to say that climate change is a major reason why Florence may be bigger and stronger and why there are likely to be more such monster storms in our future.”
  • The reversal of the Obama-era climate policy, combined with the terrible decision President Trump made to pull out of the Paris accord, could have disastrous consequences not just for American lives, but also for the economy.  
  • As climate disasters continue to pile up, perhaps the president will realize what the majority of Americans already have: these events are going to offset any cost savings that may be made by the rollbacks in energy policy. Hurricane Florence may be the tipping point.  

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The New York Times

A Hurricane, Turbocharged

David Leonhardt
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Our Commentary

In this New York Times opinion article, David Leonhardt makes these kinds of points:

  • We must talk about climate change during hurricane season. Our current government, and many citizens, don’t seem to be persuaded by data and academic studies. Maybe they will be persuaded by the weather.
  • A new study from Kieran Batia from Princeton University has found that “the reason there are going to be more major hurricanes is not necessarily [because] there are going to be that many more storms … it’s really the fact that those storms are going to get there faster.”
  • Hurricane Florence is proving Batia’s study in real time. It intensified rapidly from a Category 1 to Category 4 and this “kind of rapid escalation isn’t normal — or at least it didn’t used to be.”

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Bloomberg

Climate Change, Hurricanes and the Hazards of Connecting Dots

Our Commentary

This Bloomberg analysis by Faye Flam offers these sorts of opinions:

  • It is human nature to want to assign blame for an event like a terrible hurricane, but looking for an easy culprit like climate change is not always the most accurate conclusion.
  • There is a growing amount of evidence that points to how rising global temperatures can lead to stronger storms, and there is a good understanding of the physical mechanisms linking climate change and severe storms. But the truth is that the research is not there when it concerns hurricanes specifically.
  • The question “was this caused by climate change?” is inevitably going to be asked when natural disasters occur. “Seeking a cause is a common emotional reaction. What matters is answering it honestly.”

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Cato Institute

The Hurricane Last Time

Patrick J. Michaels and Ryan Maue
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Our Commentary

This commentary from the CATO Institute makes these types of arguments:

  • Florence, while extremely dangerous, isn’t the first major hurricane to target or hit North Carolina. Hurricane Diana (1984) and Hurricane Hazel (1954) looked and acted very much like Florence.
  • Over time, North Carolina has learned to prepare for major storms. Coastal homes are on stilts and “there is a resilience built into their infrastructure that is lacking further north.” If, as some research indicates, climate change will cause hurricanes to “shift a bit further north,” other states should learn from the Carolinas’ example.
  • Still, it’s too early to conclude if and how human activities that cause global warming will impact hurricanes. “Celebrity-studded ‘Global Climate Action Summits’… [where] Florence will be the poster girl” feel premature.

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