12 November 2013 – Comment: As Australia chooses to not send our environment minister to the new climate talks in Warsaw currently under way, the world is increasingly starting to realise that climate change isn’t something for future generations but here right now.

The Philippines’ cyclone Haiyan, the Super Storm Sandy in New York and the early October bushfires in Sydney are starting to look awfully like a pattern.

Fairfax newspapers on Tuesday called it. The Huffington Post with many millions more readers called it on Monday.

You may not be able to make a direct causal link with a specific climate event, but seriously, how long does it take to draw an arrow from point A to point B?

On the devastating Philippines cyclone, here’s a taste of what the media is saying:

In Fairfax Media, Peter Hartcher showed that concern for climate change is going mainstream – at a time when public support for climate action is starting to trend upwards again. He posed balanced questions and answers around the links between climate change and erratic and severe weather.

Was the cyclone the strongest on record, he asked?

The answer? Based on the estimate by the US military’s installation on Hawaii, the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, it was the most powerful recorded cyclone to make landfall. It hit the Philippines with sustained winds of 305km/h to 315km/h.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency, however, estimated it to be much weaker, at some 230km/h. That wouldn’t put it in the top 10. There were no direct observation points on the Philippines to settle the matter. But to the dead, and to the living who must try to rebuild from economic damage estimated by Bloomberg Industries at $US14 billion, it is a distinction without a difference.

Another question being asked is whether climate change has contributed to the cyclone’s ferocity. Hartcher quoted the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change report Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.

In its summary for policymakers, it reports: ”There is evidence that some extremes have changed as a result of anthropogenic influences, including increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

 The evidence says maybe not to date.

But what of the future as the planet warms? ”Average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely to increase, although increases may not occur in all ocean basins,” the IPCC reports. ”It is likely that the global frequency of tropical cyclones will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged.”

There’s more.

“Climate change is working to make ordinary weather patterns more dangerous,” Hartcher says.

It doesn’t seem to be happening through any direct causal link to cyclones. But it doesn’t need to. A rising sea level will intensify the power of cyclonic winds to create bigger storm surges, according to the IPCC.

Man-made climate change is real and dangerous. Is it causing more or bigger cyclones? There’s no evidence that it is. But, again, it’s a distinction without a difference. Because it’s making normal cyclones more damaging. Rising sea levels will supercharge them.

There is no need for exaggeration and there is no excuse for inaction.

Read the whole story

From The Huffington Post, Jamie Henn, Co-founder and communications director, 350.org writes:

The timing is tragically ironic. As Super Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest storms ever recorded – smashes into the Philippines, sending millions fleeing for safety, negotiators from around the world are beginning to arrive in Warsaw, Poland for the latest installment of the United Nations Climate Talks, COP 19.

Climate change is loading the dice for extreme weather events like Haiyan. The storms strength and rapid development have been aided by unusually warm ocean waters and warm, moist air (warm air holds more water vapor than cold). Global warming also causes sea level rise, increasing the risk of flooding from storm surges, especially in low-lying areas like much of the Philippines. Carbon dioxide is the steroids that leads to grand-slam storms like Haiyan.

Read the whole story,