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 Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid