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White House feels heat on warming after storm
International Herald Tribune
As politicians and commentators around the world took in pictures of
the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, many seized the
opportunity to blame the fierce storm, at least in part, on the Bush
administration's environmental policy.
The United States is one of the few nations that have not signed the
Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to limit global warming by reducing the
levels of industrial emissions that most scientists now believe
promote climate change.
"Katrina Should Be a Lesson to the U.S. on Global Warming," read a
headline on the Web site of the German magazine Der Spiegel.
"The Bush government rejects international climate protection goals
by insisting that imposing them would negatively impact the U.S.
economy," wrote Jurgen Tritten, Germany's environment minister and a
Greens Party member.
"The American president is closing his eyes to the economic and
costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural
catastrophes like Katrina," Tritten charged.
While it is impossible to link Katrina specifically to warming,
scientists said, most now concur that global warming does tend to
increase the intensity of hurricanes, if not their frequency.
"There is new research that shows there may well be an increase in
the destructive power of hurricanes because of global warming," said
Wayne Elliott, a meteorologist with the British weather service.
But the experts add that it was scientifically unfair to blame any
one hurricane on the warming trend.
"We would expect hurricanes on average should be getting more
because of global warming," said Jay Gulledge, senior research
at the Pew Institute for Climate Change, "but it's hard to make the
connection in any one event, like Katrina."
The United States has experienced Category 5 hurricanes like Katrina
before the warming of the last decades, he pointed out.
But the connection between global warming and Katrina was made
prominently in many media outlets in European countries, all of
have signed the Kyoto accord and in which Bush administration
environmental policies are widely unpopular.
In Italy, the Legambiente, a powerful national environment lobby,
called Katrina "a dramatic event on par with Sept. 11," referring to
the terrorist attacks of 2001, and demanded change from the U.S.
The strength of a hurricane is connected to sea surface temperature,
which is slowly rising with global temperatures. In the last
global temperatures have risen more than 0.7 degree Celsius (1.26
degree Fahrenheit) and sea temperatures about 0.6 degree Celsius
(1.08 degree Fahrenheit), and the pace of change is accelerating,
according to the European Environment Agency.
September 4, 2005
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