Nature's revenge on the oil industry? A refinery in Lousiana destroyed by 150 mph (240 kph) winds.
The US alone is responsible for a quarter of the world'scarbon
dioxide emissions. If we carry the smoking metaphorforward, the
entire world is suffering from the passive smoke ofAmerica's fossil
fuel habit, and the symptoms of cancer are comingsoon, if they're
not already here.
The American peopleare also suffering from their government's
failure to take urgent stepsto curb global warming. Katrina and
Rita are stark reminders of thefact that the American taxpayer is
being asked to cover the cost of theBush administration's inaction
on oil dependency not only at the petrolpump, but in uninsured
liabilities for extreme-weather related damagesas well.
For information on how to help the victims of
Katrina and Rita, check out www.katrinalists.net.
Any contribution (even 10 minutes to make some phone calls) can
To find out more about how you can personally help the fight
against climate change, visit our
Take Action page.
Mostclimate models and theory predict an increase in intensity
of tropicalstorms as sea surface temperatures increase. There are a
number offactors involved, but higher ocean temperatures
The frequency of Category 4 and 5hurricanes worldwide has nearly
doubled over the past 35 years, eventhough the total number of
hurricanes, including weaker ones, hasdropped since the 1990s.
Katrina was a Category 4 storm when it hitland. Rita was a
Category 5 on the 22nd of September.
Noone disputes that we are currently experiencing an increase in
tropicalstorm intensity. No one disputes that there are
multi-decadal cycles ofpeaks and troughs in storm activity. The
debate about the link withclimate change continues, but two recent
papers make a compelling caselinking the current peak with climate
change. One focuses on the
changes in the number, duration, and intensity of tropical
cyclones, while the other charts their increasing
destructiveness over the past 30 years.
Thereis no lack of evidence that human-induced climate change is
underway.The impacts are being felt from Alaska to Florida to
sub-SaharanAfrica, India, China and the melting Russian tundra. In
the fourweeks that the world's press has put a magnifying glass on
Katrina andRita, typhoons in Asia and floods in Europe and India
have left ruinand death in their wake. In a warming world, more
storms and moredestructive storms like Rita and Katrina are in our
future, but so areincreased outbreaks of malaria, the prospect of
massive crop failures,desertification, and sea level rise.
In the short and medium term, here's what we can expect:
- Sealevel rise due to melting glaciers and ice caps and the
thermalexpansion of the oceans as global temperature
- TheEuropean summer temperatures which killed more than 30,000
people inthe heat wave of 2003 will be 'average' summer
- Massive releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost
and dying forests.
- Ahigh risk of more extreme weather events such as heat waves,
droughtsand floods. Already, the global incidence of drought has
doubled overthe past 30 years.
- Severe impacts on aregional level. For example, in Europe,
river flooding will increaseover much of the continent, and in
coastal areas the risk of flooding,erosion and wetland loss will
- Natural systems, including glaciers, coral reefs,
mangroves,arctic ecosystems, alpine ecosystems, boreal forests,
tropical forests,prairie wetlands and native grasslands, will be
- An increase in existing risks of species extinction and
- Thegreatest impacts will be on the poorer countries least able
to protectthemselves from rising sea levels, spread of disease and
declines inagricultural production in the developing countries of
Africa, Asia andthe Pacific.
Longer term catastrophic effects if warming continues:
- Greenlandand Antarctic ice sheet melting. Unless checked,
warming from emissionsmay trigger the irreversible meltdown of the
Greenland ice sheet in thecoming decades, which would add up to
seven meters of sea-level rise,over some centuries; there is new
evidence that the rate of icedischarge from parts of the Antarctic
mean that it is also at risk ofmeltdown.
- The Atlantic Gulf Stream currentslowing, shifting or shutting
down, having dramatic effects in Europe,and disrupting the global
ocean circulation system;
- Catastrophic releases of methane from the oceans leading to
rapid increases in methane in the atmosphere and consequent
Whileeveryone on the planet is at risk from the changes that
will occur fromglobal warming, impacts are felt more severely by
the most vulnerablein any society, including the sick, aged and
And the developing world will suffer far more than those who can
afford to subsidize rebuilding.
Ifthe evacuation of Louisiana and Texas looked difficult,
imagine theentire country of Bangladesh having to flee rising
waters intoPakistan. Imagine the island nations of the Pacific
having tofind new homes.
"Rita and Katrina are merelywarnings of what our world will look
like if we fail to treat climatechange as the emergency it is.
They're the calm beforethe storm, and unless the US government
wakes up to the danger andresponds, we'll need an evacuation plan
for planet Earth," saidGreenpeace International Executive Director
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