In a Bloomberg op-ed posted yesterday, staffer Faye Flam cautioned readers about "the hazards of connecting the dots” between climate change and hurricanes like Florence, which is expected to hit the eastern seaboard of the U.S. tomorrow. “It may be human nature to want to assign blame for terrible events—and since climate change became part of public consciousness, it's a frequently faulted for natural disasters,” she notes. “Is Hurricane Florence our fault for emitting climate-changing greenhouse gases, or perhaps policy makers’ fault for allowing us to do so?”
Flam’s answer is worth citing at length:
The National Academy of Sciences looked into the matter in 2016, with its report “Attribution of Extreme Events in the Context of Climate Change.” University of Georgia meteorology professor J. Marshall Shepherd, who contributed to the report, said that it’s much easier to connect climate change to extreme heat spells, and the relative lack of recent cold spells.
There, the models predict these events, and there are good records from the past and a good understanding of the physics behind the phenomena. There’s a good understanding of the physical mechanisms connecting more severe storms to climate change, but the models aren’t yet able to say much about hurricanes specifically, and the records only go back a few decades.
Soon after the report was released, Shepherd wrote a piece for Forbes saying that “Was that caused by climate change?” is “one of the most abused questions ever.” It’s abused because people use it to push different agendas. But as with cancer cases, seeking a cause is a common emotional reaction. What matters is answering it honestly.
Today, Bloomberg is running the video clip posted above (click the satellite image). Cue the scary-movie music, be very afraid, but draw your own conclusions.