Tuesday, September 21, 2004

It's Here?
The other interesting news from last week was the reaction to Tony Blair's stern warnings about imminent effects of climate change. In the UK, leading London papers carried editorials calling for drastic responses, ranging from increased use of renewable energy, a new wave of nuclear power plant construction, and even investigating the feasibility of using oceanic phytoplankton as a giant "carbon sink". The reaction on this side of the pond was indifference.

Having followed the climate issue for some time and developed scenarios focused on what would get the attention of the US public on this issue, I'm surprised that we can endure a succession of three major hurricanes hitting Florida and the Gulf Coast within a month without our politicians even hinting at a link to climate change--despite a contentious presidential campaign in which John Kerry is trying to position himself as the candidate of the environment.

And while I certainly understand the distinction between weather and the climate, this event, suggesting a possible increase in the frequency and magnitude of Atlantic hurricanes, is precisely the kind of consequence that climate researchers have predicted. Could it just be coincidence or bad luck? Perhaps, but it takes a true skeptic not to see the pieces of the puzzle beginning to fall into place.

If anyone here is paying attention, I suspect it is the insurance industry, as Mr. Blair suggested. The combined damage from the three storms may amount to $20 billion or more, and insurers and their reinsurance backers will be hit for a large chunk of that. Don't be surprised to see them raise a red flag on climate change in the near future.

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