Saturday, September 03, 2005

GERALD BAKER in The Times of London:
And then came the predictable exploitation of the tragedy for political purposes, the dishonest advancing of an ideological agenda. This represents a sort of intellectual looting, in which the perpetrators help themselves selectively to convenient facts for their own delectation, sidestepping the dead and dispossessed before making off with their meretricious spoils.

In Katrina’s case, the intellectual looters have busied themselves with plundering half-truths and false analyses to advance one of their most precious agendas: global warming.

The German Environment Minister, Jurgen Trittin, was first, with a claim that this was a real-life version of the shock-flick, The Day After Tomorrow. Sir David King, Tony Blair’s chief scientific adviser, weighed in, saying global warming was increasing the risk from hurricanes. Robert F. Kennedy Jr, self-designated leader of the American environmentalist cause, said the US was reaping the failure to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol. And, of course, Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother of a US soldier who leads the antiwar campaign and any other left-wing cause that wants her, noted President Bush was “heading to Louisiana to see the devastation that his environmental policies and his killing policies have caused”.

Best of all, though, was the contribution of Jon Snow, enthroned as the objective voice of British media at Channel 4 News, who chortled: “How ironic that the world’s No 1 polluter is now reaping the ‘rewards’ that so many have warned would flow.”

The only fitting response to that statement is a moment’s silence to reflect on the mendacity and inhumanity of it. But the problem with these claims is that, delivered ex cathedra to credulous audiences, they quickly become received wisdom, so we must take a moment to incinerate them.

There’s no evidence, in fact, of any increase in either the frequency or the intensity of hurricanes since Man has been polluting the atmosphere. The US National Hurricane Centre says that an average of 19 hurricanes hit the US landmass each decade in the second half of the 19th century. In the second half of the 20th century, the average was 14. In the first half of this decade, the US is precisely on course to meet the stable average frequency of the most serious hurricanes (Category 3, 4, and 5) of the past 100 years.

“There have been no published studies that argue for attributing an observed increase in hurricane intensity or frequency to global warming,” says Roger Pielke, director of the University of Colorado Centre for Science and Technology Research Policy, on his website. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the same one that has been aggressively urging action to address climate change, concluded the same thing in 2001.

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