UN climate scientist: Sandy no coincidence

November 27, 2012 by Karl Ritter
In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, waves wash over a roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, N.J. amusement park that fell in the Atlantic Ocean during superstorm Sandy. Though it's tricky to link a single weather event to climate change, Hurricane Sandy was "probably not a coincidence" but an example of extreme weather events that are likely to strike the US more often as the world gets warmer, the U.N. climate panel's No. 2 scientist told the Associated Press Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012.(AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

(AP)—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 U.S. more often as the world gets warmer, the U.N. climate panel's No. 2 scientist said Tuesday.

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

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

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

After years of disagreement, 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 ," 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.

Such emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, have increased by 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report released last week.

Van Ypersele (vahn EE-purr-say-luh) said the slow pace of the talks was "frustrating" and that negotiators seem more concerned with protecting national interests than studying the science that prompted the negotiations.

"I would say please read our reports a little more. And maybe that would help to give a sense of urgency that is lacking," he said.

This Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 file aerial photo shows a collapsed house along the central Jersey Shore coast. Though it's tricky to link a single weather event to climate change, Hurricane Sandy was "probably not a coincidence" but an example of extreme weather events that are likely to strike the US more often as the world gets warmer, the U.N. climate panel's No. 2 scientist told the Associated Press Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

Marlene Moses, the head of a coalition of island nations that view the rising sea levels as an existential threat, said that was good advice.

"These are the kind of people that it is probably a good idea to listen to," she said. "It is very much in the interest of small islands to focus on the science, which is why we have always based our positions on the latest research and why here we are calling for dramatically higher ambition."

Since 1990, the , or IPCC, has released four reports with projections on how global warming will melt glaciers and ice caps, raise sea levels and shift rainfall patterns with impacts on floods and droughts. The panel shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with climate campaigner Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president.

The IPCC is set to start releasing portions of its fifth report next year. Van Ypersele would not discuss the contents except to say the report will include new research on the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, boosting previous estimates on sea level rise.

He said the scientific backing for man-made climate change is now so strong that it can be compared to the consensus behind the principles of gravity.

"It's a very, very broad consensus. There are a few individuals who don't believe it, but we are talking about science and not beliefs," Van Ypersele told AP.

Climate change skeptics say IPCC scientists have in the past overestimated the effect of the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere and underplayed natural cycles of warming and cooling. Others have claimed the authors, who aren't paid for their work, exaggerated the effects that will have on the environment and on human life.

Negotiators in Doha are supposed to start talks on an elusive global treaty to rein in emissions. They have set a deadline of 2015 to adopt that pact, which would take effect in 2020.

Among other topics, they are discussing how to help poor countries convert to cleaner energy sources and adapt to a shifting climate, as well as extending the expiring Kyoto Protocol, an agreement that limits the greenhouse emissions of industrialized countries.

The U.S. rejected the Kyoto deal because it didn't cover world-leading carbon polluter China and other fast-growing developing countries. Other rich countries including Canada and Japan don't want to be part of the extension, which means it will cover less than 15 percent of global emissions.

"Japan will not be participating in a second commitment period, because what is important is for the world is to formulate a new framework which is fair and effective and which all parties will join," Japanese delegate Masahiko Horie said.

Meanwhile, a series of recent climate reports have underscored the depth of the challenge before the U.N. climate negotiators. A report released Tuesday by the U.N. Environment Program warned current climate projections are likely too conservative because they don't factor in the thawing of permafrost—a layer of soil that stays frozen year-round in cold climates.

Lead author Kevin Schaefer, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, said 1,700 gigatons of carbon are locked up in permafrost primarily in the U.S., China, Russia and Canada. He called for further studies on the potential climate impact if it's released, saying up to 39 percent of total emissions could come from permafrost by 2100.

Explore further: Will US role at climate talks change after storm?


Related Stories

Will US role at climate talks change after storm?

November 25, 2012

(AP)—During a year with a monster storm and scorching heat waves, Americans have experienced the kind of freakish weather that many scientists say will occur more often on a warming planet.

Doha climate talks open amid warnings of calamity

November 25, 2012

Nearly 200 nations gather in Doha from Monday for a new round of climate talks as a rush of reports warn extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy may become commonplace if mitigation efforts fail.

World temps maintain the heat of global warming

November 29, 2011

2011 is currently tied for the 10th hottest since records began in 1850 and Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record-low volumes this year, the U.N. weather office said Tuesday.

Melting permafrost 'may speed global warming'

November 27, 2012

Climate talks got down to the nitty-gritty in Doha on Tuesday as developing countries and the European Union (EU) staked out rival positions on the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.

UN scientist: fighting climate change saves costs

November 30, 2011

(AP) -- The U.N.'s top climate scientist cautioned climate negotiators Wednesday that global warming is leading to human dangers and soaring financial costs, but containing carbon emissions will have a host of benefits.

Recommended for you

Mysterious deep-Earth seismic signature explained

November 22, 2017

New research on oxygen and iron chemistry under the extreme conditions found deep inside the Earth could explain a longstanding seismic mystery called ultralow velocity zones. Published in Nature, the findings could have ...

Scientists dispute missing dryland forests

November 21, 2017

Scientists are disputing the possibility that a significant portion of the world's forests have been missed in an earlier accounting of ecological diversity.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.2 / 5 (19) Nov 27, 2012
A propaganda piece. The title says "No coincidence" then we find "probably no coincidence" which is a different proposition. Why? $100 billion a year no questions asked. Here's what Tim ball and the ipcc reports have to say
"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Reports are the 'scientific' source of claims for more severe and extreme weather. In fact the incidence and severity of extreme weather— hurricanes, wind storms, tornados, heat waves, drought, floods, ice storms, etc—have not generally increased recently and are well within long term natural variability."
2.3 / 5 (19) Nov 27, 2012
"The new question should probably progressively become: Is it possible that climate warming has not influenced this particular event?"

This is a logical fallacy just like you can't prove the non existence of God or space Aliens. He's really out on a limb here...
2.3 / 5 (18) Nov 27, 2012
Globally cyclone activity is the lowest it's been since the 1970's
2.3 / 5 (19) Nov 27, 2012
Another paper showing extreme weather is unusually low
3.4 / 5 (15) Nov 28, 2012
gregor, gregor, the corporate WHORE!!!
2.5 / 5 (16) Nov 28, 2012
You don't like evidence Eric? Why is that now?
2.6 / 5 (10) Nov 28, 2012
And it's amazing how there's so much severe weather around the world lately, including a vast increase in floods etc. Get your head out of the sand, gregor.
2.3 / 5 (9) Nov 28, 2012
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.
2.3 / 5 (12) Nov 28, 2012
there's so much severe weather around the world lately,

Right, today's weather is so much worse than the 30s with extreme droughts, heat, and massive hurricane that hit New England in 1938.

"The decade of the 1930s was a very active one for hurricane landfalls in Virginia and the Carolinas. The decade
featured two significant hurricanes striking the region in the same year (1933) and also featured hurricanes which brought the highest and second highest tides of record for the Hampton Roads area. Details on individual storms follow."
2.1 / 5 (11) Nov 28, 2012
Check the facts Sinister. You do your cause no service by fibbing to gild the lilly. The general public is just not that stupid. They have the internet now.
1.8 / 5 (10) Nov 29, 2012
And from NOAA: '2012 was an active year, but not exceptionally so …10 busier years in the last three decades'

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.