Environment

'Sandy is no coincidence'

Wednesday, November 28, 2012    

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DOHA, Qatar — THOUGH it's tricky to link a single weather event to climate change, Hurricane Sandy was "probably not a coincidence", but an example of the extreme weather events that are likely to strike the US more often as the world gets warmer, the UN climate panel's number two scientist said yesterday.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predicted that as stronger and more frequent heatwaves and storms become part of life, people will stop asking whether global warming played a role.

"The new question should probably progressively become: Is it possible that climate warming has not influenced this particular event?" he told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of UN climate negotiations in Qatar.

Ypersele's remarks come as global warming has re-emerged as an issue in Washington following the devastating superstorm — a rarity for the US Northeast — and an election that led to Democratic gains.

After years of disagreement, climate scientists and hurricane experts have concluded that as the climate warms, there will be fewer total hurricanes. But those storms that do develop will be stronger and wetter.

It is not correct to say Sandy was caused by global warming, but "the damage caused by Sandy was worse because of sea level rise," said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. He said the sea level in New York City is a foot higher than a century ago because of man-made climate change.

On the second day of a two-week conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, the talks fell back to the bickering between rich and poor countries that has marked the negotiations since they started two decades ago. At the heart of the discord is how to divide the burden of cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide.

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