Reader responds to BC Views Column

We have every cause to be worried. What we do to slow down climate change is up to us, it is possible but not unless we curb our use of fossil fuels, says Sandra Flood

In response to “Fanning fear of fire and flood,” a Tom Fletcher column published on Oct. 4, 2017.

“Fanning fear of fire and flood” is the second article by Tom Fletcher full of misinformation in his argument against climate change and its causes. Quoting the Bloomberg News as saying Irma was “the first time since 1964 that the U.S. was hit by back-to-back major hurricanes,” Fletcher goes on, “The unusual 12-year lull with zero hurricanes after Katrina in 2005 was not mentioned.”

First there may be a misprint in the 1964 date as the previous back-to-back major hurricanes were in 2005, namely Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. The “unusual 12-year lull” mentioned by Fletcher simply doesn’t exist. The Atlantic generates an average of 10 named hurricanes a year, many happily don’t strike land but between 2005 and 2016 there were three major hurricanes which did: in 2007 Dean force 5 hit Central America and the Caribbean, and Felix force 5, which hit Nicaragua and Honduras, Matthew in 2016 hit Antilles, Venezuela, Colombia, the U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada. In fact you can tell how many hurricanes there are each year simply from the names that run alphabetically from A onwards.

It is true as Fletcher says, “that hurricanes battered the Atlantic coast long before our industrial revolution” quoting the Galveston hurricane of 1900 which killed 8,000 people. If the death toll in hurricanes has got less in intervening years it is mainly because of better communication systems and government hurricane preparedness, although Mitch which roared through Central America, the Yucatan Peninsula and South Florida in 1998 killed 19,325. However the latest report from NASA on Global climate change that I could find on the web says, “The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s.” As Fletcher points out from a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA and NASA repeats, “The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain.” However NASA says, “Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.”

A recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says, “Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities.” The IPCC, which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. According to the IPCC, the extent of climate change effects on individual regions will vary over time and with the ability of different societal and environmental systems to mitigate or adapt to change.

Whatever damage the Trump administration may be doing by denying climate change and its causes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website on 22 June 2017 says, “The Earth’s climate is changing. Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events – like heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures – are already happening. Many of these observed changes are linked to the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, caused by human activities.”

EPA partners with more than 40 data contributors from various government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations to compile a key set of indicators related to the causes and effects of climate change. It goes on to say, “Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.”

We have every cause to be worried. What we do to slow down climate change is up to us, it is possible but not unless we curb our use of fossil fuels.

– Sandra Flood

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