The recent storm in Philippines was not a result of global warming, but about poverty.
The recent Typhoon Haiyan was terrible. Hitting the Philippines, it killed thousands, because of poverty: flimsy houses that were swept away, inadequate shelters and poor planning.
It is a pattern we know only too well. When a hurricane hits rich Florida, it makes significant damage, but kills few people. When a similar hurricane hits poor Nicaragua, it destroys the economy and kills tens of thousands.
Yet, many of the world’s top opinion leaders have not talked about poverty but rather linked Haiyan to global warming, focusing on cutting CO2. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it a climate “wake-up call.” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and British Prime Minister David Cameron both speculated Haiyan was caused by climate change and emphasized the need to cut emissions.
At the ongoing Warsaw climate summit, the Philippine negotiator Naderev Saño stated “climate change will mean more intense tropical storms,” and that a climate treaty could fix this. To a thunderous, standing ovation he exclaimed: “We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here.”
Yet, this connection is wrong and the focus on climate is possibly the worst way to help.
Global warming is real, and there are many good arguments for cutting CO2 effectively. But hurricanes are not one of them.
There is no indication of an increasing number of hurricanes around the Philippines or even globally. The longest comparable, global scientific study “does not support the presence of significant long-period global or individual basin linear trends for minor, major or total hurricanes.” Actually, the trend for strong hurricanes around the Philippines has declined since 1950.