I was wanting to quickly comment on a recent Bjorn Lomborg article in the New York Post called No, global warming isn’t causing worse hurricanes. It’s mainly a response to another article in the New York Post called Climate change is making hurricanes way more intense.
There are a number of issues with Bjorn Lomborg’s article. It is true that we might expect anthropogenically-driven global warming to lead to fewer hurricanes overall, but we still expect an increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest ones. There is already an indication of an increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest storms in the North Atlantic, which appears to be linked to increased sea surface temperatures.
However, the bit of the article that I found most disingenuous was when it discusses
why carbon cuts are a terrible way to reduce hurricane damage.
Anyone whose been involved in this topic for as long as Bjorn Lomborg has must realise that carbon cuts are not simply aimed at reducing hurricane damage. Our emission of CO2 into the atmosphere is changing our climate, which has many different impacts. There’s warming of the troposphere, which will likely lead to increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves. There’s likely to be an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events. There’s sea level rise, which could have a significant impact on many coastal communities. There will be an expansion of the tropics, substantially changing the climate in some regions. There will probably also be an increase in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events. These changes will also probably impact droughts and flooding.
So, yes, if all had to worry about was damage due to hurricanes, carbon cuts might well be a poor way to deal with this. However, this clearly is not the only thing we will have to face, and so carbon cuts are not simply meant to address increased damage due to hurricanes. It is probably true that some use hurricanes to highlight some of the risks we might face and to motivate climate action. However, clearly most are not suggesting that the only risk we face in future is increased damages to more extreme hurricanes.
Maybe we should be careful of using things like hurricanes to motivate carbon cuts, since this does ignore many other reasons for doing so. However, you can understand why this happens. Hurricanes can be very impactful events and can draw a lot of public attention. The main problem is probably that doing so then allows bad faith actors to make disingenuous arguments against carbon cuts. I’m not sure, however, that there’s really all that much that we can do to avoid this.
Climate Science Special Report (2017) – which says Human activities have contributed substantially to observed ocean–atmosphere variability in the Atlantic Ocean (medium confidence), and these changes have contributed to the observed upward trend in North Atlantic hurricane activity since the 1970s (medium confidence).
Intensification of landfalling typhoons over the northwest Pacific since the late 1970s – which says typhoons that strike East and Southeast Asia have intensified by 12–15%, with the proportion of storms of categories 4 and 5 having doubled or even tripled. ….. We find that the increased intensity of landfalling typhoons is due to strengthened intensification rates, which in turn are tied to locally enhanced ocean surface warming on the rim of East and Southeast Asia. (H/T David Appell).