Via the National:
For many of us, the debate over the reality of climate change never goes beyond wondering if it can explain a recent bout of freakish weather.
Yet for many of the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos living in the UAE the debate has taken a tragically personal turn.
Yeb Sano, leader of the Philippines delegation to November’s UN climate conference in Warsaw, doubtless spoke for many when he implicated global warming for the Super Typhoon Haiyan, which has so far claimed more than 5,000 lives and left 500,000 homeless.
Mr Sano’s speech was made all the more poignant by the fact that exactly a year ago, his delegation appealed for action to combat global warming while his nation was being battered by another typhoon, causing a then-unprecedented disaster on the southern island of Mindanao.
He was close to tears as he called on those still sceptical about climate change to “get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair” to witness the evidence. “We can stop this madness”, he said.
There can be no doubting his sincerity. Yet while he is not alone in seeing the disaster as proof of the reality of calamitous climate change, few scientists have been happy to make the connection.
They are all too aware of falling for the notorious fallacy known to logicians as post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this).
Many, perhaps most, scientists are convinced that global warming is taking place, and it seems that more violent storms are a natural consequence.
Higher temperatures mean more thermal energy being packed into the oceans, and more powerful convective currents, resulting in more powerful storms.
Yet scientists have long recognised that climatic phenomena are rarely that simple. In the case of tropical storms, the processes are still too poorly understood to make sense of the latest spate of severe storms.
Indeed, there is no clarity even about so basic a fact as whether such storms are becoming more common. While tropical cyclone intensity has increased since the 1970s, the trend is within the normal range of long-term historical records.
It does seem that such storms are causing more damage, but that could reflect the fact that there are just more people and buildings in harm’s way. The population of the Philippines has doubled since the mid-1970s, with some predicting it will exceed 100 million in the next year.
Yet whatever the reality of a link between climate change and Typhoon Haiyan, the chances of Mr Sano’s conference plea to combat global warming leading to action are low to zero.
Barely had he sat down than the government of Japan announced a new greenhouse gas emission target that allows an increase rather than a drastic cut over coming years. Other governments, most recently Australia and Canada, have made their lack of enthusiasm for drastic action no less clear.
So are we now condemned to seeing ever more climate-related tragedies? If so, the blame will certainly lie with mankind alone – at least, that is what environmentalists would have us believe. By disturbing the balance of nature, they argue, disaster will surely follow.
Once again, however, climate science is revealing a more complex reality. Evidence increasingly suggests that man-made global warming may actually be preventing a worldwide calamity, in the form of a new Ice Age.
Read more here.