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Published: Tuesday, 11/12/2013

EDITORIAL

Storm warning

Philippines example of big storm's getting more erratic, extreme as sea levels consistently rising.

A survivor walks by a large ship that was washed ashore by strong waves caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. A survivor walks by a large ship that was washed ashore by strong waves caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
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Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines last Friday, was one of the strongest storms ever to hit the archipelago. Some 10,000 people are reported to have died, and the planet should move toward a major humanitarian response.

But a storm this apocalyptic also invites other questions. Is this simply another episode of violent weather, or is it linked to global climate change? Unfortunately, science cannot determine the genesis of every storm. The truth lies in the long-term trends — and those trends are disquieting.

Climate change theory predicts erratic and extreme weather events. Over the past century, the sea level at New York City has risen about a foot, higher than the global average. As the planet warms and sea levels rise, big storms have a head start on flooding the nearby land.

Engineering can do only so much as the oceans continue to rise, especially in a state such as Florida, only a few feet above sea level. The problem is at base about fossil fuel use. The Philippines typhoon, which had a storm surge of up to 20 feet, came while a two-week United Nations meeting on climate was about to start in Warsaw.

While scientists debate whether this latest superstorm was climate-change related, the tearful Filipino envoy, Naderev “Yeb” Sano, had no doubt. “We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here,” he said.

Unfortunately, we can’t — not while so many refuse to take the heavy-handed hints that nature has been dropping.



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