A profound tragedy is unfolding in New Orleans, the most beautiful city in America, with the richest cultural history and the most wonderful style of living. I lived in New Orleans for seven years. I was married there. My children were born there. I have many friends there.
My daughter, her husband and their little baby managed to get out of the city ahead of the flood on Sunday, driving 14 hours into Texas with the few belongings they could stuff into their car. They have no idea what has become of their house and their possessions, not to mention their friends, their pets, their jobs, their way of life.
Tragedies happen, and my daughter and her family are happy just to be alive. Their losses and those of hundreds of thousands of other innocents deserve mourning, prayer and respect.
That is why the response of environmentalists fills me with what only can be called disgust. They have decided to exploit the death and devastation to win support for the failed Kyoto Protocol, which requires massive cutbacks in energy use to reduce, by a few tenths of a degree, surface warming projected 100 years from now.
Katrina has nothing to do with global warming. Nothing. It has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before and the inability of humans, even the most brilliant engineers, to tame these forces.
Giant hurricanes are rare, but they are not new. And they are not increasing. To the contrary. Just go to the website of the National Hurricane Center and check out a table that lists hurricanes by category and decade. The peak for major hurricanes (categories 3,4,5) came in the decades of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, when such storms averaged 9 per decade. In the 1960s, there were 6 such storms; in the 1970s, 4; in the 1980s, 5; in the 1990s, 5; and for 2001-04, there were 3. Category 4 and 5 storms were also more prevalent in the past than they are now. As for Category 5 storms, there have been only three since the 1850s: in the decades of the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s.
But that doesn’t stop an enviro-predator like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from writing on the Huffingtonpost website: “Now we are all learning what it’s like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and – now — Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.”
Or consider Jurgen Tritten, Germany’s environmental minister, in an op-ed in the Frankfurter Rundschau. He wrote (according to a translation prepared for me): “By neglecting environmental protection, America’s president shuts his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes like Katrina inflect on his country and the world’s economy.”
The bright side of Katrina, concludes Tritten, is that it will force President Bush to face facts. “When reason finally pays a visit to climate-polluter headquarters, the international community has to be prepared to hand America a worked-out proposal for the future of international climate protection.”
He goes on, “There is only one possible route of action. Greenhouse gases have to be radically reduced, and it has to happen worldwide.” In other words, thanks to Katrina, we’ll finally get Kyoto enforced. (He might start at home, by the way. Europe is not anywhere close to reducing CO2 to Kyoto standards. In fact, the U.S. is doing much better than many Kyoto ratifiers.)
Ross Gelbspan, in a particularly egregious, almost giddy piece in the Boston Globe that was reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, wrote that the hurricane was “nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service Katrina, [but] its real name was global warming.” He also finds global warming responsible for droughts in the Midwest, strong winds in Scandinavia and heavy rain in Dubai. The reason for all this devastation, of course, is that the Bush Administration is controlled by coal and oil interests.
And the Independent, a widely read British newspaper, reported today that “Sir David King, the British Government’s chief scientific adviser, has warned that global warming may be responsible for the devastation reaped by Hurricane Katrina.” King contended that “the increased intensity of hurricanes is associated with global warming.”
The Kyoto advocates point to warmer ocean temperatures, but they ought to read their own favorite newspaper, The New York Times, which reported yesterday:
“Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming. But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught ‘is very much natural,’ said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.'”
An article on TCS quoted Gray last year as saying that, while some groups and individuals say that hurricane activity lately “may be in some way related to the effects of increased man-made greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide,