Global warming could intensify hurricanes, some climate experts say

After this year’s unusually devastating hurricane season, many folks who study hurricanes were quick to reassure the public (and Congress) that normal climatic fluctuations, not global warming, were to blame. But at a press conference yesterday, a group of climatologists, including several present and past members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the hurricanes that hit Florida, Haiti, the Caribbean, and (for the first time ever) the South Atlantic — not to mention the 20 typhoons in the Pacific — were consistent with the extreme weather events that global climate change is expected to make more frequent in the future. Though they stopped short of drawing a direct causal link between this year’s hurricanes and global warming, the scientists warned strongly against complacency in the face of what stands to be a lethal and expensive pattern. How expensive? Matthias Weber of Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest insurer, said the insurance industry covered $150 billion in weather-related losses this year, up from a yearly average of $4 billion in the 1980s.