Sunday, November 27

It's not obvious

The Gathering Winds: A Rise in Deadly Storms Since '95 Has Researchers Worried About the Future By Peter Whoriskey
Many storm researchers now agree that a decade or more of similarly rough seasons -- similar to the heightened storm activity that began in 1995 -- lies ahead.

But at the same time that the trio of Katrina, Rita and Wilma were battering Southeastern coasts, a controversy was brewing over the reasons for the rise in hurricane havoc. At issue: Is it merely a natural fluctuation or, more ominously, a product of global warming?

...a pair of scientific papers published this year detected an unexpected spike in storm intensity over the past several decades, suggesting that global warming might already be having an effect. The research set off a passionate and sometimes personal debate in the small community of storm scientists.


Besides adding weight to the argument that global warming could be having catastrophic effects, the findings spell more trouble for U.S. coastal areas vulnerable to fierce storms, where the population is rising fast. The risks are being borne by all U.S. taxpayers. Already, the federal government has been asked repeatedly for hurricane relief money.

"We have to decide as a society whether that's a problem," [Roger Pielke Jr., an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado] said. "Obviously, the benefits of living near the coast outweigh the costs because people are doing it. The question is: In the face of inevitable property damage and loss of life, how well do we prepare?"
OK, so it may global warming. But there is nothing obvious about the benefits outweighing the costs. In many cases people insist on living in places that have repeatedly suffered from hurricanes because the government keeps bailing them out.

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