News Release

Hurricanes and Climate Change


Author of The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription, Gelbspan said: “The ferocity of Hurricane Floyd — like Hurricane Mitch, which last year killed 9,000 people in Central America — is part of a pattern of extreme weather which results directly from early-stage global warming. Warmer surface waters fuel more intense and severe hurricanes. In the last few years, surface waters in both the Atlantic and Pacific have warmed by several degrees — independent of El Niño events. That increase, coupled with a warming-driven rise of atmospheric humidity of 5 percent per decade since the mid-1970s, accounts for the unusually intense rains which accompany these hurricanes. The chief cause of global warming is the buildup of emissions from our burning of oil and coal.”
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Associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, Epstein said: “Global warming did not ’cause’ Hurricane Floyd (or the New York City outbreak of encephalitis). Hurricane strength and outbreaks of diseases with such complex life-cycles cannot be accurately predicted. But extreme weather events are growing in intensity as a result of heat building up in the atmosphere and oceans. And as increasingly unusual weather patterns envelop us, they can ‘decouple’ natural biological controls over opportunistic pests and pathogens. We can, therefore, expect more such surprises.”
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Director of U.S. PIRG’s Campaign to Stop Global Warming, Silverthorne said: “Hurricane Floyd and this past summer’s extreme weather are dramatic previews of what scientists predict that global warming could do. As we prepare for more extreme weather events like Floyd, Congress continues to block measures that could curb global warming. One of the best ways to curb global warming is to reduce auto pollution by increasing miles-per-gallon standards. We applaud the 40 senators who voted Wednesday to lift the freeze on upgrading miles per gallon (CAFE) standards for casting perhaps the single most important environmental vote of this session.”
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Research associate with the Transnational Resource and Action Center, Bruno said: “Although we can’t point to a single ’cause’ of this specific hurricane, climate change is likely to cause more hurricanes and more severe hurricanes. If we follow the recommendation of some members of the European parliament, we can call this Hurricane Exxon, Hurricane Mobil or Hurricane Shell, instead of Hurricane Floyd, since it is these companies that are most responsible for climate change — and the devastating storms that are associated with it.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167