News / Africa

Did Hurricane Sandy Send a Climate Warning?

  • Waves crash into the pier in Ocean City, Maryland October 28, 2012.
  • A man with a small dog takes a photo of the storm waves from Hurricane Sandy in Ocean City, New Jersey, October 28, 2012.
  • A car plows through a flooded street in the Ocean View area in Norfolk, VA., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.
  • The boarded up windows on a store front in Margate N.J., read "Boo Sandy!", as the area prepares for the arrival of the superstorm, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.
  • Travelers surround a flight monitor showing cancelled flights at LaGuardia airport in New York October 28, 2012.
  • Mike Strobel fills sand bags for his business, Mike's Carpet Connection, as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Fenwick Island, Delaware.
  • Large waves generated by Hurricane Sandy crash into Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 as the storm moves up the east coast.
  • President Barack Obama, center, attends a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate, right, at the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.
  • People ride the last train to Long Island as it departs Penn Station in New York October 28, 2012.

Hurricane Sandy

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Hurricane Sandy was the latest severe storm to batter the northeastern United States, disrupting power, communication and transportation and causing billions of dollars in damage. Sandy renewed debate about whether climate change is behind changing weather patterns. One scientist says those changes are being seen worldwide.


Elwyn Grainger-Jones calls it the never-ending question: is climate change responsible for storms becoming bigger and stronger?

“Scientists are pretty clear that the physics is such that if the world is warming, there’s a very strong likelihood that as the seas get warmer, storm intensity will increase. We may have the same number of storms as the past. They’ll get more powerful. That actually is what we've seen over the last 40 years – that the number of tropical storms, of hurricanes, has remained about the same in numbers, but they become a lot more powerful,” he said.

Grainger-Jones, director of the Environment and Climate Division at IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, put the situation in layman’s terms.

“The way I look at it is if scientists tell you that your house is probably going to be burning, do you say I need to know for certainty before I buy my home insurance and a fire extinguisher, or is that enough to invest in those things. And I think that’s what this storm is telling us. It’s an indication of what the future is going to become like,” he said.

Climate change projection models have forecast an increase in global temperatures by two to six degrees Celsius over the century. That may not sound like much, but according to the IFAD scientist it is.

“It will feel like a lot when it happens. There’s been quite a lot of research on what these temperatures translate to into real impacts for real people. The people that IFAD works with, the poor smallholder farmers, this is just devastating for their livelihoods. They’re really on the frontline of climate change. Now what’s going to happen if they don’t have enough water or if temperatures increase so that the seeds they’ve got just don’t work in that temperature, or if the river flow decreases?”

He said warmer temperatures would also affect rich nations through higher food prices, more intense storms and rising sea levels pressuring coastal cities.

“They might not mean their homes get flooded all the time, but to avoid that they’re going to have to spend some serious money in investing in infrastructure that protects them from it. So one way or another, this is going to have a transformative impact on the lives of pretty much everyone on the planet if we get to those kinds of numbers. And I think we need to avoid any kind of delusion that, hey, we’ll have nicer winters.” He said.

Grainger-Jones said most climate models project incremental increases in temperature, but a few forecast a more abrupt change. He says there’s already been about a one degree Celsius increase since pre-industrial times, which some say is affecting today’s climate.

“We’re seeing sea level rise affect many of the communities we work with, for example, in Senegal or in the Mekong Delta, because many poor people live on very flat lands right next to the sea,” he said.

While most scientists say humans are contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, a smaller group holds to the position that climate change is part of the Earth’s natural cycles.

“There is always a natural cycle in weather patterns. But the speed and intensity of the way this particular issue of climate change is being felt and is projected to be felt is well beyond the adaptive capacity right now of many communities in the world,” he said.

IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division director said humans cannot control nature through technology, but they can learn to live in harmony with it.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development is helping smallholder farmers adapt to climate change with environmentally friendly techniques. However, he says it will take global agreement on climate change – something that’s been elusive – to fully address the issue. Grainger-Jones added that climate change affects more than the environment, saying it cuts across political agendas and strikes at the economy and health.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid