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Global Warming Blog

The Hush-Hush on Hurricanes
Headlines hint at government cover-up
Posted October 1, 2006 by Nathan Cool

Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and the northward migration of species can all be linked to climate change. Whether you believe it's human-induced, natural or a combination of the two, these bellwethers signal that, as Bob Dylan once wrote, "times, they are a changin'." As scientists scramble to sort out the uncertainties and nail-down global warming as a tried and true, well-tested science, there's one harbinger of heat that's become a sticky issue to discuss, recently turning a serious topic into political pabulum to feed the conspiracy machine. This matter of contention is the alleged link between hurricane ferocity and global warming--an issue that received a fair amount of airtime last week as the story spinners whipped up shocking headlines, insinuating that the United States government is hiding facts from "we the people" about this stormy subject. Sadly, the media slanted these stories, and the truth of the matter lies buried between the lines of sensationalistic rhetoric.

Two headline subjects circulated last week concerning a supposed bureaucratic collusion to hide hurricane exigency. The first was an accusation made in the journal Nature that the U.S. was holding back on crucial information tying global warming to vicious hurricanes like those seen in 2005. One such headline, U.S. Blocked Hurricane Statement was issued by Reuters on September 27th. Naturally, the rest of the media snagged this story with ABC News touting, Government Accused of Censorship Over Global Warming, and the Toronto Sun claiming, Hurricane-warming link muzzled. This seemingly damning debacle was accentuated when Mongabay.com stirred the plot pot with the second headline, pointing out that a recent report on hurricanes from the National Science Foundation--a government agency created by Congress--did not once mention anything about global warming. Looking over these stories, one just can't help but wonder if big brother is hiding something from us. But when you peer deeper into the media's ignes fatuus and news-crews hokum, something else appears beyond the clamor of connivance.

The alleged hurricane "report" that was so covertly concealed by the United States government, was really nothing more than a two page "fact sheet". This artifact was to be included in a press kit to be distributed this past May by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but wasn't. According to Jordan St. John, Director of Public Affairs at NOAA, "The White House never saw [the fact sheet], so they didn't block it." According to St. John, some 50 scientists worked to craft this document so it would be acceptable to everyone: to those who maintain the human-caused view of global warming and its link to hurricane ferocity as well as those viewing the natural perspective. This of course makes sense--coming from an organization funded by our tax dollars--since even the IPCC has yet to confirm a definitive correlation between tropical cyclones and a warming world (something I elaborate more on in chapter 5 of Is it Hot in Here? -- The simple truth about global warming).

The media coverage becomes even more suspicious though when considering that news about this purported cover-up ran rampant through the media at the end of September, yet the "report" was drafted in February, and was due out in May. So why bring it up now? It's not the beginning of hurricane season, nor is it the end. No devastating storms have hit lately, and no one seems to be talking much about hurricanes these days. We are though only about five weeks away from the 2006 mid-term elections--a time when members of Congress stump-thump their way back into the good graces of the people they represent, using hot button issues to state their stance and come out smelling better than "the other guys." This year, it's intriguing to note that Democrats are trying to take back the house.

What's especially curious--and a bit disturbing as well--about the headlines hinting at deep-rooted complots within the U.S. government, is how the stories covering this so-called scheme merely brief over partial facts, and then go to great lengths to speak ill of the Bush administration, as well as how people perceive the Republican agenda on the environment. For instance, the Reuters story contrives partisan prejudice by stating:

President George W. Bush has acknowledged that global warming is a serious problem that is caused in part by human activity, but his administration pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol meant to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that are a prime cause.

Does discussion of Kyoto and hurricanes really belong in the same article? What about stating other studies of hurricanes, or providing news scientifically related to this issue? Or how about a recap of this year's ho-hum hurricane season? Such exclusions leave the media stories smelling politically tainted. But that's not the end of this tale of supposed treachery by the custodians of our country. What about the National Science Foundation's (NSF) omission of global warming in their recent report? Well, this accusation also emits a rancid odor of skewed views with a pungent aroma of parti pris.

The NSF report was actually an announcement that the NSF is proposing further, extensive research on hurricanes to prepare for devastating storms so that property and lives can be saved from future storms. This proposal asks Congress for another $300 million in additional yearly spending as part of this initiative. Yet it indeed says nothing about global warming. But should it? The NSF report stresses that the overall economic costs associated with hurricanes striking the mainland are growing at a much higher rate than the investments made in creating and generating new knowledge about these kinds of storms. The report also indicates that more focused and coordinated use of research funds could serve to reduce large emergency public outlays and avoid loss of life and social disruption generated by such catastrophic events. This report, in short, is not a scientific paper to lay blame at the feet of global warming, nature, or any other cause for hurricanes; instead, it's a plea to the U.S. Government to provide more funding so that research can continue in a positive manner to serve the people of the United States placed in harm's way.

Amidst the media innuendos of perfidy by the powers-that-be, journalists seem to be forgetting something rather important: Where in the heck are the hurricanes this year? As you may recall from a blog I wrote back in August, The Weary Eye of the Tropical Storm, as well as looking back over this past summer, things have been pretty darn quiet around hurricane alley. Experts were warning of another doosey of a year, and alarmists were crooning the doom-and-gloom song. Even Al Gore, in his An Inconvenient Truth said:

... unless we act boldly and quickly to deal with the underlying causes of global warming, our world will undergo a string of terrible catastrophes, including more and stronger storms like Hurricane Katrina...

But here we are, the beginning of October 2006, and all's still relatively quiet across the ocean waters--nothing like that expected earlier in the year, or forewarned by those awaiting the sky to fall. All the while, for some reason or another, ocean waters cooled--a story the media didn't latch onto, and most people were left unaware of (more on that in another one of my recent blogs here).

Please, don't get me wrong. Global warming is a serious issue. So are hurricanes, our climate, and the future of our world. But you got to admit, it is a bit humorous to hear of hurricane conspiracies during a season of punchless storms and calm across the waters--a time also preceding the mid-term elections. But with comicality aside, it becomes disturbing to see how our planet, along with its oceans and climate, are being used as tools to fight political battles. Moreover, it's sad that the misrepresentation of the truth, oftentimes in the name of political gain, taints the view of climate research, which further hinders sorting out uncertainties in a burgeoning science aimed at providing us a better world for the future.

More information on hurricane correlations to global warming, slanted media coverage, uncertainties, Kyoto and other topics mentioned in this blog are discussed in greater detail in my new book, Is it Hot in Here? -- The simple truth about global warming.