Tsunami a Foretaste of Global Warming
The horror of waves caroming across the Indian ocean at 500 miles an hour (the speed of a commercial jet liner!) and then crashing into beaches and shorelines at a height of as much as 30 feet, for all the world like liquid Godzilla, crushing sunbathers and carrying hapless villagers off deep into the sea, can scarcely be guessed at for those of us who only see a bit of rubble and ankle-deep flooding, in the aftermath, on the cable television news feeds. On Sunday at least 12,500 to 14,000 lives were abruptly snuffed out in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere in the path of the enormous waves, called tsunami. [ 1/27/04 2:33 pm: The toll is now 22,000 and rising]. It was caused by a massive earthquake in the Pacific off Indonesia, of nearly 9 on the Richter scale–the fourth largest measured in the past century. On the east coast of India, some 500,000 persons were left without electricity or sewerage, surrounded by dead animals and human corpses, some of the latter in trees or atop surviving houses.
This particular tsunami was caused by an earthquake and was unrelated to climate change.
Since some readers have been confused by skimming, let me repeat this sentence: This particular tsunami was caused by an earthquake and was unrelated to climate change.
But everyone should realize that global warming contributes to extreme weather events, causing more hurricanes and typhoons and stronger ones.
Even in the year 2004 extreme weather events caused on the order of $100 billion in damage– an unprecedentedly high figure and one due to rise.
Giant waves are only one potential problem with global warming.
“According to CCAN, global warming may ultimately damage coastal property, destroy freshwater aquifers and eliminate entire towns and islands. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the altered precipitation patterns associated with climate change could reduce Maryland’s major agricultural crops by 24 to 42 percent. Other negative changes may include a decline in Chesapeake Bay crab and fish harvests, and increases in deaths from urban heat stress and mosquito-borne diseases, according to CCAN.”
As Naomi Oreskes pointed out in the Washington Post on Saturday, the scientific literature for the past decade has expressed no doubts about the reality of global warming or of human responsibility for some large portion of it. Although not all scientists are convinced, the scholarly literature where this matter is debated technically is characterized by broad consensus. The main doubts that are raised are in the mass media, for ulterior motives, by non-scientists. Moving to cleaner energy as soon as possible is the only way to prevent future tsunamis that will hit closer to home for Americans.