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
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’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs