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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid