Within the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen Haiyan, which has been the most devastating tropical storm ever to make landfall, annihilate much of the Philippines, as well as the leveling of parts of the American Midwest by tornadoes.
Last year, Hurricane Sandy flooded parts of the Mid-Atlantic region, and it hasn’t even been a decade since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast region.
Deadly weather events like these have created a lot of discussion about global climate change, and climate scientists are mixed on the issue of to what extent massive storms and other natural disturbances can be attributed to climate change.
The consensus seems to be that climate change is probably not responsible for the severity of tropical storms like Haiyan, but can contribute to the level of damage experienced by those in storm affected areas.
For instance, the risk of coastal cities becoming flooded, as they were during Hurricane Sandy, has doubled since 1950, due in part to rising sea levels. Another factor, though, is just that, as populations increase globally, people are building closer and closer to the sea.
That’s why some storm-wracked communities have been offering incentives for displaced homeowners not to rebuild their destroyed homes in the same high risk areas.
While we don’t know whether the risk of deadly storms will increase in the years to come, one thing is certain. Even with all of our scientific knowledge and technological advances, the human race still hasn’t found a way to outsmart Mother Nature. We can continue to work on more sophisticated forecasting instruments, and we can invent remarkably resilient building materials, but storms like Haiyan, Sandy, Katirna, and last weekend’s tornadoes show how far we still must go to protect ourselves from the awe inspiring forces of nature.