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Climate Change. Part 20:
2017: Group of 20 summit
Hurricane Harvey at Texas.
Does climate change increase severity
and/or frequency of hurricanes?
Events at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg:
The G20 (a.k.a. G-20 and Group of Twenty) is
an international forum for federal governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. They hold a conference each year. During 2017-JUL, they met in Hamburg, Germany. The government representatives were met with a massive demonstration involving from 22,000 to 200,000 participants estimates differ). Some banners protested the mass drowning of refugees in the Mediterranean who have been trying to escape to Europe. Other protests involved climate change, global inequality, arms trade, etc. 2 Much of the protest was peaceful. However, over 200 police were injured during violent clashes.
All participants in the G-20 signed a joint declaration, with the exception of the United States. It says in part:
"... We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems. In facilitating well-balanced and economically viable long term strategies in order to transform and enhance our economies and energy systems consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, G20 members will collaborate closely. Recalling the G20 Principles on Energy Collaboration, we regard energy security as one of the guiding principles for the transformation of our energy systems, and we will continue to work on open, flexible, and transparent markets for energy commodities and technologies. We welcome international cooperation on the development, deployment, and commercialization of sustainable and clean energy technologies and support financing by Multilateral Development Banks to promote universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy.
We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs. The United States of America states it will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally determined contributions.
The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible. We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC commitment by developed
countries in providing means of implementation including financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation actions in line with Paris outcomes and note the OECD’s report “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth”. We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances and, to this end, we agree to the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth as set out in the Annex." 3
Countries and manufacturing companies taking actions to lower greenhouse gases:
2017-AUG/SEP: Hurricane Harvey attacks Texas:
Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico in late August, and made landfall near Rockport, TX, on AUG-25 as a Category 4 hurricane. It moved inland, and stalled over Houston, where it dumped about 50 inches of rain -- an all-time record rainfall. "Two of Houston’s five wettest days on record were a result of Harvey, and August 2017 was the city’s rainiest month on record." Harvey briefly returned to the Gulf of Mexico, reversed its course, and made landfall again near Cameron, LA. It also caused flash flooding in parts of Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.
As of the morning of SEP-03, at least 136,000 structures in Texas had been flooded and at least 74 people had died in the state as a result of Harvey. Also, at least 22 people in Houston were missing as of SEP-09. Property damage may reach as much as $200 billion. That compares with $160 billion for Katrina. 4,5
Harvey's highest wind gust recorded was 132 mph at Port Aransas, TX. The highest storm surge was 12 feet at Aransas Wildlife Refuge! The National Weather Service’s West Gulf River Forecast Center estimated that Harvey unleashed 53.4 million acre-feet of water in the form of rainfall, or at least 17.4 trillion gallons. That is almost 2.5 gallons -- or about ten liters -- for every human on Earth. Buffalo Bayou crested about 9 feet above flood stage. Harvey also spun up at least 56 tornadoes! 6
Harvey's greatest measured rainfall was 51.88 inches in Cedar Bayou, TX. The all-time record for rainfall for a hurricane in the U.S. was 52 inches, in Hawaii during 1950. 7
As expected with such a massive storm, some commentators expressed opinions about whether Harvey was caused or influenced by human activity. The general con census among climate scientists is that human activity is generating increasing levels of greenhouse gasses which are causing climate change in the form of global warming. This, in turn, is not causing more major storms to occur. However, the storms that do happen are significantly more powerful and destructive.
Is global warming causing the severity and/or frequency of hurricanes?
According to Anne Sneed, writing for Scientific American:
"Many experts are confident that a warmer world will create stronger storms -- and already is doing so. Since 1981 the maximum wind speed of the most powerful hurricanes has risen, according to research by Jim Elsner, a climatologist at The Florida State University. 12 That’s because higher ocean heat provides more energy for storms, fueling their intensity. Hurricane Patricia, in 2015, set the record at the time for top wind speed -- 215 miles per hour -- in the north Atlantic. The next year Winston shattered records as the most intense cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere." 13
David Leonhardt, wrote an article for The New York Times about hurricane Harvey with the title: "The Storm That Humans Helped Cause." A better title might have been: "The Storm That Humans Made More Destructive."
He started his article by noting that the "... daily surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico last winter never dropped below 73º [F or 23ºC]." This is an all-time hottest value for the Gulf's minimum water temperature. He continued:
"This sort of heat has a specific effect on storms: Warmer weather causes heavier rainfall. Why? When the seas warm, more moisture evaporates into the air, and when the air warms ... it can carry more moisture.
The severity of Harvey, in other words, is almost certainly related to climate change. ..."
"[Climate change] has aggravated droughts, famines and deadly heat waves. In the United States, global warming seems to be contributing to the spread of Lyme disease."
" 'The heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent, and the amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased,' as the National Climate Assessment, a federal report, found. 7 'The mechanism driving these changes,' the report explained, is hotter air stemming from 'human-caused [global] warming'. ..." 8
Leonhardt noted that Houston added 24% additional paving between 1996 and 2011. This adds to flooding because pavement does not absorb water the way that soil does. He concludes:
"Add up the evidence, and it overwhelmingly suggests that human activity has helped create the ferocity of Harvey. That message may be hard to hear — harder to hear, certainly, than stories of human kindness that is now mitigating the storm’s toll. But it’s the truth.
Beyond Harvey, the potential damage from climate change is terrifying. Disease, famine and flooding of biblical proportions are within the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, stories of potential misery have not been enough to stir this country to action. They haven’t led to a Manhattan Project for alternative energy or a national effort to reduce carbon emissions.
So when we are faced with actual misery that stems in part from climate change, we should be honest about it.
What’s happening in Texas is heartbreaking, and yet it will be a more frequent part of modern life unless we do something about it." 8
Surveys of papers by climate scientists have indicated that: among those papers that specify a root cause of climate change, 97% agree that is primarily caused by human activity. A consensus of scientists also agree that climate change is the direct cause of the recent increased ferocity of hurricanes. Some scientists believe that climate change is also increasing the frequency of hurricanes.
In addition to the effects of climate change which will show a slow increase over decades in the strength of hurricanes, there are some shorter-term cyclical changes that are making hurricanes particularly severe in 2017:
- The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports that three factors have increased the likelihood of hurricanes forming:
- "A wetter and stronger monsoon [season] in West Africa."
- "A natural cycle called the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO)" [which] has reached a peak this year." 11
- This year has seen a lack of wind shear, a phenomenon that breaks up hurricanes. Some scientists believe that this is caused by the cyclical El Niño being at a neutral level -- neither high nor low -- at this time.
- Kerry Emanuel, a leading atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said:
"The number of hurricanes in the Atlantic varies a great deal from year to year for reasons that have to do with natural climate fluctuations like El Niño and also just plain random variability. A lot of it is just sheer chance. ..."
Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which was the most damaging of any US hurricane, occurred in a very quiet year.
That's just because the noise is so large and we are looking for these small signals. A busy year is no guarantee that you are going to see a major hurricane [make] landfall." 11
- Professor Richard Allan from the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, UK, said:
"In terms of the factors that control the genesis and the intensification of these hurricanes, a number of these point to the fact that they will undoubtedly be slightly more severe due to the extra heat content in the ocean due to the long-term warming of the climate. ..."
"The evidence is that there is not really going to be an increase in the number of tropical cyclones but there is certainly some evidence that the strongest hurricanes will become more intense.
"In terms of the rainfall and the storm surges that's very strong evidence that the amount of rain that will fall out of these intense hurricanes will be greater and storm surges will be higher and more deadly." 11
Some climate change deniers are downplaying the information of the ferocity of the recent hurricanes, implying that climate change believers are trying to delude the public. For example:
- Columnist Ann Coulter, whose new book is called "In Trump We Trust," tweeted:
"Hurricane update from Miami: Light rain; residents at risk of dying of boredom. 9
- Radio show host, Rush Limbaugh, said that the media are following false data from climate scientists and assorted liberals and exaggerating the intensity of the hurricanes in order to increase the public's anxiety about climate change, He said:
"They are the ones using it to advance a political agenda, not me. And all I'm doing is pointing it out. 9
Leonard Pitts Jr., writing for the Miami Herald, said:
"Last year, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said that hurricanes are actually part of a vast liberal plot. 'It is in the interest of the left to have destructive hurricanes,' he said, 'because then they can blame it on climate change. ..."
"He ... [opined] that media and marketers were in on the conspiracy, using hurricanes to drive viewership and sales of bottled water."
"So the media benefits with the panic with increased eyeballs, and the retailers benefit from the panic with increased sales."
Pitts concluded that:
"Limbaugh’s lunacy reflects right-wing orthodoxy, which favors doing nothing in response to climate change on the theory it’s all an expensive boondoggle designed to victimize innocent oil and gas companies. So you get Trump pulling the country out of the Paris climate accord and Florida Governor Rick Scott forbidding his team to even use the term 'climate change.' Where the health of our planet is concerned, Republicans essentially ask us to make a wager that science is wrong." 10
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Image downloaded from Freedigitalphotos. #10098367 . Photo by suphakit73; published on 2012-AUG-21
- "G20 Leaders´ Declaration: Shaping an interconnected world," G20.org. 2017-JUL-7/8. Downloadable in PDF format
- "France just announced it's banning sales of gas and diesel vehicles," The Independent newspaper, at: https://www.facebook.com/
- Sean Breslin & Pam Wright, "Harvey Aftermath: Struggles Continue As Death Toll Rises," Hurricane News, 2017-SEP-03, at: https://weather.com/
- Gene Veith, "And now Hurricane Irma," Patheos, 2017-SEP-08, at: http://www.patheos.com/
- John Boyer, "Hurricane Harvey: By the numbers," Rhttp://www.richmond.com/
, 2017-SEP-02, at:
- Federal Advisory Committee, "National Climate Assessment: Extreme Weather: Highlights," at: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/
- David Leonhardt, "Harvey, the Storm That Humans Helped Cause," The New York Times, 2017-AUG-29, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
- Mike Snider, "Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter facing blowback on Hurricane Irma comments," USA Today, 2017-SEP-12, at: https://www.usatoday.com/
- Leonard Pitts, Jr., "Hurricanes are not a liberal conspiracy, trust me on this one," Miami Herald, 2017-SEP-09, at: http://www.miamiherald.com/
- Matt McGrath, "Hurricanes: A perfect storm of chance and climate change?," BBC News, 2017-SEP-21, at: http://www.bbc.com/
- James B. Elsner et al., "The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones," Florida State University, at: http://myweb.fsu.edu/
- Annie Sneed, "Was the Extreme 2017 Hurricane Season Driven by Climate Change?," 2017-OCT-26, at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/
The following reports in this section that discuss environment and climate change may be of interest to you:
Part 1: 2013: Quotes. Background. Bay of Bengal incident. Decline in Canada's arctic ice cover.
Part 2: 2013/2014: Canada loses its seasons. 316 North American cities to be under water
Part 3: 2013/2014: Christians, Republicans' & Democrats' beliefs differ. Volcanoes cause pauses in global warming. Americans' views on climate change
Part 4: 2014/2015: How Americans viewed climate change. HFC limits. Groups abandoning ALEC. Paris Conference reaches agreement.
Part 5: 2016-FEB to AUG: Climate change concerns: Ocean levels rising. Displacement of animal species.
Greenland glacier melting. "Third Pole" glaciers melting.
Part 6: 2016-SEP: Flooding on the U.S. East coast. U.S. and China ratify the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. President Obama: trends are "terrifying
Part 7: 2016-SEP: Obama comments on warming (Continued). 31 countries ratify Paris agreement. Trump zigzags on Climate Change.
Part 8: 2016-Summer/Fall: Events showing that climate change is adversely affecting life on Earth
Part 9: 2016-OCT: Did God send Hurricane Matthew as an anti-LGBT message to humanity? Alternate opinions. Hurricane Matthew re-enters Atlantic Ocean.
Part 10: 2016-NOV: U.S. Costal real estate threatened. Rapid temperature rise in the Arctic. Very large poll about climate change.
Part 11: 2016-DEC: President-elect Trump's climate change
New heads of federal
departments. Extinction of 11 species.
Part 12: 2016-DEC: President-elect Trump's 16 promised plans on energy and the environment.
Part 13: 2017-JAN: 2016 Was The Hottest Year On Record, Ever.
Part 14: 2017-JAN:
Recent climate change measurements.
Part 15: 2017-JAN to APR:
Climate Change beliefs are changing; more people
accept it as real, and are now debating its cause.
Part 16: 2017-JAN to APR: Donald
President. EPA Foe Installed as
Head of EPA!
Hundreds Die During Flood in Colombia. Carbon Dioxide
in Atmosphere Reaches New High.
Part 17: 2017-JAN to APR: Studies of the effects
of sea-level rise in California between now and the year 2100.
- Part 18: President Trump severs the U.S. from
the Paris Accord. U.S. and world leaders
- Part 19: 2017: More Reactions to the U.S.
Withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
- Part 21: Can government regulations help? Is Harvey a message from God? U.S. record high temperatures. Hurricane Harvey attacks Texas.
Hurricane Irma attacks Caribbean, FL, SC, & GA.
- Part 22: 2017-SEP/OCT: The most expensive recent hurricanes to attack the U.S.Does God use Hurricanes to send a message?
Conflicts, climate change cause rise in hunger.
- Part 23: All UN states have signed the Paris Agreement. Government report contradicts the President.
the Union of Concerned Scientists.
- Part 24: 2017-OCT to 2018: Sea levels rising. Insonesia suffers badly.
Age differences: beliefs on climate change.
Proposed Mount Trumpmore project. How global warming is affecting California. Animal, Insect, & Bird Ranges Shrink. Hurricanes slowing as winds increase.
Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2017-SEP-03
Latest update: 2017-SEP-22
Author: B.A. Robinson