Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan, that hit the Philippines a few days ago, seems to have been a truly devastating event. Maybe as many as 10000 dead and more than a million needing aid and support. I will even give a hat-tip to Watts Up With That (WUWT) who are encouraging people to donate to the Philippine Red Cross. I do think they’ve spoiled it a little by turning it into an ethical challenge for Greg Laden. I don’t think these kind of challenges are particularly positive. It may do some good if it helps to encourage more aid giving, but I don’t think the if you don’t give to this charity you’re not ethical rhetoric is all that helpful. Similar, giving to charity because of such a challenge doesn’t suddenly make you ethical. However, if you wish to donate some money you can follow the above link to the Philippine Red Cross, and I acknowledge that it was WUWT that made me aware of that site.

There’s been quite a lot said about Typhoon Haiyan on both sides of the global warming/climate change debate and I was halfway through writing a post of my own. However, I can’t really bring myself to say much more. If you do want to read about Typhoon Haiyan, and what it might imply with respect to climate change and global warming, the best I’ve encountered – through a tweet by Kevin Anchukaitis – is an article by Andrew Freeman called Super Typhoon Haiyan: A hint of what’s to come. It seems quite balanced and presents, quite clearly as far as I can tell, our current understanding of the scientific evidence. I will admit, however, that this is a topic about which I’m not that familiar so there may well be other aspects about which I’m unaware. That’s, partly, what the comments are for. I would ask that if anyone does comment, that they consider the tragic nature of the event when composing their comments.

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47 Responses to Typhoon Haiyan

  1. A little? They turned a request for help into a personal vendetta. If you want to help do it because you want to help, not because you at the same time want to challenge a critic. That undermines the very message you’re trying to send.

  2. Indeed. I was trying to avoid the irony of essentially doing as they have done.

  3. Rachel says:

    I follow a blogger in the Philippines. Still waiting to hear if they’re ok.

    I think the Philippines would do far better in the long run if people like Anthony Watts made an effort to encourage politicians to do something about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s great that he donated to this particularly tragedy, but far better would be to end his promotion of business as usual. This is a sign of things to come. They need a great deal more from the rest of us than $US118.

  4. Something I was going to comment on was the economic arguments made by some with regards to events like this. I didn’t because I couldn’t quite face a lengthy discussion about the moral aspects of future events like this. I may return to that at a later stage though.

  5. Rachel says:

    What economic arguments do you mean?

  6. For example, those made by Bjorn Lomborg in a recent WUWT post. Essentially it goes something like; we can’t detect the influence of global warming on these storms today, we’ll all be better off in the future anyway, the modelling of the damage due to cyclones suggests it will be a smaller fraction of GDP in the future compared to today, hence we should really only be considering adaptation (i.e., do nothing now and, in fact, acting to reduce CO2 emissions will do more harm than good). That seems to be roughly the type of argument being made by some.

  7. Rachel says:

    I don’t agree with that logic. It’s like taking out a huge loan from the bank and spending all the money, then saying that future generations will be richer than us so they should pay it all back including the interest. The strange thing is that if the motivation for business as usual stems from right-wing political ideology, which I thought valued personal responsibility, then you would think they should favour taking responsibility in this instance which means cleaning up our own mess.

    The other thing that is overlooked in those arguments is that although it seems like a huge problem to solve now, it’s only getting to get harder because they’ll be more CO2 in the atmosphere and more ice will have melted and the climate will have shifted that much further. Like cancer, it’s probably best treated as early as possible.

  8. I agree, and in fact have just seen a tweet from Bjorn Lomborg stating that using Typhoon Haiyan to argue for CO2 reductions is immoral. He is clearly taking a position that not cutting CO2 will be of more benefit than cutting CO2 (or that cutting CO2 emissions will do damage). The evidence for that just seems remarkably weak. Also, given that it is coming from someone who at best doesn’t understand climate models and the definition of an anomaly (or is willfully mis-using them) doesn’t give such views much credibility.

  9. Doug Bostrom says:

    Lomborg whistles past some of the uglier features of adaptation. Being one drowning victim among thousands is to play a role in adaptation; as a rule we’re often not very forehanded and are moved to change our habits only after graphic demonstrations.

    Let alone people dying, losing billions of dollars of real estate is adaptation. See these two newspaper articles just published for details of adaptation as it will appear in practice:

    Rising sea levels, falling real estate values

    South Florida Faces Ominous Prospects From Rising Waters

    It’s within our power still to avoid a bit of this adaptation.

  10. Doug, yes we can’t avoid a certain amount of adaptation. However, arguing that any attempt at mitigation is immoral, just seems absurd. This seems especially true as some of the economic models that suggest a net benefit still predict some regions suffering disproportionately.

  11. Doug Bostrom says:

    Oh, I agree, Wotts. Lomborg’s approach on morality is bizarre. If it were any other topic than climate change, more people would be mocking him if not excoriating his attitude. But special rules apply here.

    I never take seriously arguments about helping future generations out of poverty, not when we’re perfectly comfortable living on the same planet with the current generation of the poor. With a few minor adjustments in our habits, the top 1/5th of us could effect radical improvement for the bottom 1/5th. We choose not to do so, now, so appeals to promises of future altruistic sincerity ring entirely hollow.

  12. Doug Bostrom says:

    The Rolling Stone pieces is great, Flakmeister! In particularly it explores the geological hopelessness of the situation.

    Can’t help but highlight the conclusion of the Miami Herald article:

    Peter Harlem, an FIU researcher, points out that Miami boomed in the 1920s when developers sold swamp land to buyers who hadn’t seen it. Perhaps, Harlem suggests, that could happen again.

    “You know, about a third of America … doesn’t believe [in] climate change. That’s a sure market to sell to.”

    Pioneers in adaptation, we salute you! Now hand over your money.

  13. Rachel says:

    I don’t really see why it is immoral to use typhoon Haiyan as an argument for climate change action. Even if it turns out that there’s absolutely no link between increasing storm intensity and climate change, then at most the argument is wrong. But there does appear to be a link so it seems perfectly reasonable to me to say that if we want to avoid these things getting stronger in future, then maybe we should do something now.

    The same accusations were made in Australia recently with the unseasonably early start to the bushfire season. No-one was allowed to link the bush fires with climate change without generating a lot of criticism. If temperatures are going up and heat waves are becoming more frequent then it does seem to follow that there will be more bush fires.

    I agree with Doug in that Lomborg does ignore the ugly side of adaptation. Adaptation is also going to be very different for someone living in Bangladesh than for someone living in a temperate climate, high above sea level.

  14. BBD says:

    No-one was allowed to link the bush fires with climate change without generating a lot of criticism.

    And we are not allowed to call them “deniers” either. An authoritarian bunch, these contrarians.

  15. Rachel says:

    And if you’re a scientist, you’re not allowed to talk about policy. Can’t have values either.

  16. That's MR Ball to you. says:

    “I never take seriously arguments about helping future generations out of poverty, not when we’re perfectly comfortable living on the same planet with the current generation of the poor. “

    This x20

  17. Tom Curtis says:

    Returning briefly to the original topic, Eli has an extensive list of aid agencies that are helping in the Philippines, with links for those who want to donate.

    He must have been pressed for time in preparing it, however. He did not have time to include a challenge to Steve McIntyre to prove that he is ethical by donating 😉

  18. Doug Bostrom says:

    Thanks, Tom. Time to put our money where our mouths are. Mine, for instance.

  19. andrew adams says:

    For example, those made by Bjorn Lomborg in a recent WUWT post. Essentially it goes something like; we can’t detect the influence of global warming on these storms today, we’ll all be better off in the future anyway, the modelling of the damage due to cyclones suggests it will be a smaller fraction of GDP in the future compared to today, hence we should really only be considering adaptation (i.e., do nothing now and, in fact, acting to reduce CO2 emissions will do more harm than good). That seems to be roughly the type of argument being made by some.

    Yeah, because my first reaction when I see the pictures of the devastation wrought by Haiyan is “just think about the cost as a percentage of GDP”.

  20. Rachel says:

    That’s so true, Andrew. If there’s anything truly insensitive to the victims of Haiyan then it’s telling them that it’s too expensive for us to bother with reducing our emissions so you’ll need to adapt to the changes instead. This ignores the human response to natural disasters. Natural disasters are not just a percentage of GDP. They cause fear and terror, loss of home and village, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, starvation, disease and a large amount of suffering as a result of all of these.

    My Filipino blogger as emerged and is alive and well.

  21. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Hello, The Fundraising Foundation Saves The Worlds Philippine representatives lives in the areas who have suffered the worst by Haiyan, our female representative Ivona M. Carcedo lives in Cebu region, and her fiance Brent L. Mausisa who lived in what once was Tacloban City.

    Ivona has provided her personal story on the events from her point of view, you can read it on Saves The Worlds blog here: http://blog.savestheworld.se/the-worlds-deadliest-super-typhoon-haiyan-and-its-destruction/

    We hope that this will give you all a deeper understanding of the actual events and situation there when you read this personal story!

    Please share it with others!

    Much thanks from the board of directors in Saves The World Foundation!

  22. andrew adams says:

    I’m glad to hear that Rachel.

    On the wider point, yes it is sometimes necessary to look at these things in a dispassionate sense and consider our possible courses of action in economic terms – that is after all what people like Stern and Nordhaus have done and there is certainly value in their work.
    But although those kind of calculations can make a contribution to policy decisions they can’t ultimately dictate them in the way that Lomborg seems to suggest, partly because of the large uncertainties involved but also because it is about values as well as economics. Even if it were shown that the economic costs of mitigation were likely to be higher than those of adaptation we might still consider them worth paying in order to prevent as far as possible the amount of human suffering which would result, not to mention other irreversible negative impacts on the earth as a whole.
    Doug Bostrom made the point above about what adaptation to climate change actually means in practice. The way “skeptics” talk about it you would think it is an easy option, as if we can throw a bit of money at the problem and live with it well enough. They point out how adaptable human beings are, how we have learned to live with a changing planet and will do so in future. And they are right up to a point – we are certainly better equipped to predict and handle extreme events than we used to be. But look at the various extreme events in the last few years (apart from Haiyan) – Sandy, Katrina, floods in Asia, drought in Texas, heatwaves in Europe, just a few things off the top of my head. The “skeptics” say they are part of natural variability in weather patterns, nothing to do with climate change, and let’s say for argument they are right. But all of those events and others have had a huge toll of human lives and livelihoods despite all our best efforts – we are not even adapted to the kind of extreme events we get now let alone any increase in the frequency or severity of such events we might see in the future as a result if climate change. The “skeptics” arguments don’t even work based on their own logic.

  23. William, except that that is a report on Death and Death Rates due to extreme events for the period 1900 – 2006. I haven’t had a chance to read it thoroughly but as I understand it, it is very difficult to compensate for how advances in technology and other factors have reduced the impact of extreme events. So, from what I’ve seen so far, Typhoon Haiyan is one of the strongest (maybe even the strongest) to have made landfall (in recorded history at least).

  24. William says:

    Sorry not 70s, one in 1958, though looking at wsj Asia it seems the seventh worst to hit the philapeans.

  25. I believe that that link is consistent with my comment that it is the strongest to make landfall – although maybe that was worded badly. It was, I believe, the strongest when it made landfall according to your own link. In fact, that is stated fairly clearly just above the table in your link.

  26. William, how can it be the fourth strongest in recorded history and the strongest to make landfall (or the strongest when it made landfall) and be the seventh worst to hit the Philippines?

  27. Very odd, as that seems to be quite different to the data presented by others. One possibility is that the PAGASA uses 10 minute averages to determine maximum wind speed. Others agencies use 1 min averages.

  28. BBD says:

    There is a powerful whiff of WUWT in here. Can we not play this game with dead Phillipinos as counters? Please? It’s vile.

    Thanks.

  29. BBD says:

    To be clear, that was @ William.

  30. William says:

    Bbd , true,

    on the positive side it is good to read that mortality rates from storms, droughts etc have dropped 95 per cent from the 1920s, that is something amazing.

    In reply to wotts, pagasa use ten minute averages as you say, so does japanese satellite, so one minute averages are higher but this would mean the list given from pagasa would not change as they would all be upgraded in windspeeds if using one minute averages.

  31. BBD says:

    Perhaps my initial comment wasn’t sufficiently clear, William. To aid comprehension, read it again.

    Thanks.

  32. William, I intentionally decided – in this post – not to discuss the implications of this Typhoon wrt global warming/climate change. I really don’t know why some are suggesting that it is the seventh strongest, others that it’s the fourth, and that some are suggesting that it is the strongest to make landfall. It was clearly a very powerful Typhoon that did a lot of damage. That, I think, is really all that matters at the moment.

  33. William says:

    I agree,

    My initial comment and link was about the thankful decrease in mortality from weather event, it’s just that you answered with a comment about the cyclone being one of the largest to have made landfall, just passing on that it came in seventh,

    Just helping clarify.

  34. William, maybe I mis-interpreted the intent of your comment then. It just appeared to be the standard “skeptic” tactic of curt comments that appear to suggest that something isn’t as significant as maybe it has been claimed. A particular theme is to consider trends in flooding when some talk about increased rainfall, or to consider Typhoon landfall when some discuss whether or not cyclones will likely get stronger. Maybe that wasn’t your intent. A slightly lengthier comment that made that clearer would have helped though. As to whether or not it was seventh,fourth, strongest to make landfall or not, I’d rather not consider any further.

  35. BBD says:

    It’s straight from WUWT. See, eg Sou.

    Hence the short shrift.

  36. William says:

    Bbd , it was quite an amazing piece.

  37. William says:

    I mean from my link.

  38. BBD says:

    Comprehension problems it seems. Let me help by quoting our host, Wotts:

    I would ask that if anyone does comment, that they consider the tragic nature of the event when composing their comments.

    And:

    As to whether or not it was seventh,fourth, strongest to make landfall or not, I’d rather not consider any further.

  39. William says:

    Bbd, you might have missed mt wotts reply to me, his last sentence,
    . So, from what I’ve seen so far, Typhoon Haiyan is one of the strongest (maybe even the strongest) to have made landfall (in recorded history at least).

    So only replied to that. I think that is ok to do.

  40. William says:

    And after his , ‘I’d rather not consider ‘ the case was closed, we had already established the facts.

  41. Tom Curtis says:

    I thought this comment I posted at SkS might be apposite with regard to William’s oddities above. In particular the last paragraph. Unfortunately you will have to go to SkS if you want live links:

    jzk @14, the wind speeds I quote are for sustained one minute gusts. They were reported by Jeff Masters, and by the Gaurdian, to whom I have provided links. They were originally reported by the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). The BBC reports:

    “[Haiyan] brought sustained winds of 235km/h (147mph), with gusts of 275 km/h (170 mph), with waves as high as 15m (45ft), bringing up to 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain in places.”

    Those figures are taken from the Phillipine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), which report ten minute sustained gusts. The difference between the agencies was noted by the Manila Times ten days ago. Jeff Masters believes the gusts speed reported by the JWTC = the sustained wind speed reported by PAGASA after multiplying by a standard factor of 1.14 to account for the difference in period of measurement. Presumably the higher measured “gusts” reported at 235 mph reported by the JWTC are then recorded gusts that were not sustained for a full minute. I have not seen confirmation of that, however.

    Finally, if you go to PAGASA, click on “climatology” in the side bar, then on “Climate Statistics” in the window that opens, then on “Tropcial Cyclone Statistics” in the side bar, then on “Important Facts about Tropical Cyclones”, and then finally on “The five strongest tropical cyclones that made landfall in the Philippines” you will find a list of the five strongest such cyclones not including Haiyan. This is of interest because only two of the cyclones (Senning and Anding) make a similar list printed by the WSJ. For those two, Senning (Joan) is reported to have a peak gust of 275 kmh (172 mph) on the PAGASA website, but ten minute sustained gusts of 193 mph in the Wall Street Journal. Anding (Irma) is reported to have a peak gust of 260 kph (163 mph) on PAGASA and sustained gusts of 171 mph on the Wall Street Journal. This is difficult to comport with the accuracy of the WSJ report. As it happens, PAGASA also reports that Remming (Durian) had a peak gust of 320 kph (200 mph), but does not make the list. If peak gust as reported by PAGASA is simply the peak recorded speed without any time limit, that would partially explain the discrepancy between the WSJ and PAGASA. It would also give a comparitor to Haiyan’s reported “gust” by the JTWC of 235 mph.

  42. William says:

    Hello tom,

    Oddities eh!! All I did was post a link to wsj Asia and a link to mortality rates from the 1920’s.

    Check my reply to wotts on his comment about strongest.

    Out of interest whst does the japanese satellite say.

  43. Tom Curtis says:

    William, as near as I can tell, it says the same as PAGASA, in that PAGASA got its figures from the Japanese. Of course, we could always go with PAGASA’s on ground measurements at Tacloban airport, which showed a maximum windgust of about 23 kmh – after which the anenometer was destroyed three hours before the eye’s closest approach to Tacloban.

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