Competitive Enterprise Institute

Marlo Lewis
September 29, 2005
Global warming didn't generate storms
Letter to the editor in USA Today
By Marlo Lewis

USA TODAY is right: Activists who blame Katrina on global warming may gain short-term publicity, but risk losing long-term credibility.

The increasing frequency of hurricane activity in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico since 1995 is due to a natural, multidecadal shift in the Atlantic Ocean thermohaline circulation (THC), the oceanic "conveyor belt" that pulls warm water from the tropics northward to the British Isles.

When the THC shifts into its strong phase, as it did in the mid-1990s, the North Atlantic warms and generates more hurricanes. Mankind's use of fossil fuels has nothing to do with this process.

More important, global warming was not responsible for Katrina's destructive fury. Any tropical storm traversing waters of 82 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer has the potential to become a category 4 or 5 hurricane. Gulf waters routinely exceed that temperature in August, and did so long before mankind began using fossil fuels.

Consequently, regulatory policies such as the Kyoto Protocol offer no protection from future Katrinas. Indeed, by making energy scarcer and more costly, such policies would only aggravate the economic losses and hardship from energy-infrastructure damage inflicted by Katrina, Rita and other major storms.

© Marlo Lewis


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Marlo Lewis

Marlo Lewis, Jr. is a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he writes on global warming, energy policy, and other public policy issues... (more)

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