Cel­e­brat­ing tragedy

A storm is bad enough without the money-mak­ing po­lit­i­cal hype

The Washington Times Daily - - Editorial -

The ty­phoon that slammed into the Philip­pines laid waste to vast stretches of the is­land na­tion. Houses were lev­eled, and wreck­age was strewn as far as the eye could see. Thou­sands died. Of­fi­cials are rac­ing against the clock to find the miss­ing among the 2.1 mil­lion dis­placed fam­i­lies. U.S. Marines were dis­patched to lend the ap­pro­pri­ate hand in the benev­o­lent search-and-res­cue mis­sion.

Oth­ers are merely search­ing for op­por­tu­nity. Ge­orge Clooney, the ac­tor, in­ter­rupted par­ty­ing in Bev­erly Hills to de­claim about the tragedy. “The idea that we ig­nore that we are in some way in­volved in cli­mate change is ridicu­lous.” And it’s not just Hol­ly­wood try­ing to spin Ty­phoon Haiyan. Aus­tralian cli­ma­tol­o­gist Will St­ef­fen blames mankind. “Once [cy­clones] do form,” he told The Syd­ney Morn­ing Herald, “they get most of their en­ergy from the sur­face wa­ters of the ocean. 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.”

When sci­en­tists men­tion “cli­mate change,” they’re usu­ally talk­ing about blam­ing man for over­heat­ing the planet. Man ex­hales car­bon diox­ide, the gas that plants feed on and con­vert into oxy­gen. This is a good thing, yet chem­i­cally iden­ti­cal car­bon-diox­ide mol­e­cules be­come a “pol­lu­tant” when emit­ted from the tailpipe of an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine. These evil, man-made car­bon-diox­ide mol­e­cules sup­pos­edly stir an an­gry, hot planet to lash out with fierce storms.

Ty­phoon Haiyan packed a for­mi­da­ble wal­lop, a two-fisted as­sault with tor­ren­tial rain and high wind, and op­por­tunists have sought to make bad enough sound worse, call­ing it a “195 mph su­per­storm” as if it were the most pow­er­ful storm ever to make land­fall, whipped and fueled by global warm­ing. The 195 mph fig­ure comes from NASA satel­lites, which mea­sure wind speeds at high al­ti­tude. Ac­tual mea­sure­ments taken on the ground tell a slightly more mod­est tale.

The Philip­pine At­mo­spheric, Geo­phys­i­cal and Astro­nom­i­cal Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion clocked the wind at 145 mph at land­fall. That’s a heavy­weight tem­pest, just not the record-breaker. The ty­phoon struck at a na­tion still ten­der from an earth­quake that struck less than a month ago, regis­ter­ing 7.1 on the Richter scale. To put it in per­spec­tive, that’s stronger than the 1989 tem­blor in San Fran­cisco that col­lapsed an el­e­vated free­way.

Though Ty­phoon Haiyan was ex­tremely pow­er­ful, there’s noth­ing par­tic­u­larly un­usual about dev­as­tat­ing storms in South­east Asia. Ty­phoons be­dev­iled the western Pa­cific long be­fore in­ter­nal com­bus­tion engines be­gan send­ing those ex­tra car­bon-diox­ide mol­e­cules into the at­mos­phere. The Cli­mate De­pot web­site tells of an equiv­a­lent ty­phoon that hit the Philip­pines in 1882 with in­stru­ments record­ing 144 mph winds be­fore the in­stru­ments broke.

Blam­ing ty­phoons on global warm­ing is in­ac­cu­rate, and even the U.N.’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change con­cedes in its lat­est re­port, “Glob­ally, there is low con­fi­dence in at­tri­bu­tion of changes in trop­i­cal cy­clone ac­tiv­ity to hu­man in­flu­ence.”

Such facts don’t mat­ter much to the pur­vey­ors of global-warm­ing hys­te­ria. Tall tales bring in big money. When Al Gore left the White House in 2001 to be­come the high priest of cli­mate change, he had never held a job out­side govern­ment. Now he’s worth $200 mil­lion.

No­body on the gravy train is likely to give up the plat­form to ex­ploit tragedy and mis­ery with fan­ci­ful tales of weather may­hem. Ghouls, goblins and tell­ers of tall tales had their big night on Hal­loween. What the Philip­pines needs now is food, wa­ter, medicine and shel­ter.

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