Over the last several days Hurricane Dean whipped through the Caribbean before slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula and the Mexican mainland. While loss of life and damages are still uncalculated, Dean will join the ranks of Andrew, Charlie, Hugo, Rita. And of course, Katrina. Their names are seared into the minds of those who lived through them. The 100+ mile an hour winds and stinging sideways rain wreaked devastation – ripping roofs off houses, flattening whole buildings, tossing around cars as if they were toys, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage, and taking lives. Recovery often takes years. Two years after Hurricane Katrina struck land on August 29, 2005, thousands of Mississippi and New Orleans residents have yet to restore their homes, businesses or lives. And some may never do so. Hurricanes gather and release nature’s fury, and the consequences are deadly.
And now the actions of humans since the dawn of the industrial age will only propel future hurricanes’ power. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere released by burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels has begun to warm the planet, including our oceans, and scientists have determined that warmer sea surface temperature can boost hurricanes’ ferocity, and may even increase their frequency. It is imperative that we do everything we can to prepare for the potential disasters.
In conjunction with the release of the report, Forecast: Storm Warnings, the Center for American Progress will conduct a forum that will discuss the impact of global warming on hurricane severity and frequency. In addition, there will be a discussion of necessary federal, state, and local policies that would increase the resilience of hurricane prone communities. The forum will feature, Mayor Richard Crotty (R) of Orange County, Florida, hurricane scientist Dr. Peter J. Webster, John B. Copenhaver of DRI International, and Jane Bullock, former chief of staff of Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt.
The urgency of this work grows every day as thousands of Americans relocate to coastal areas, but with the best science, local mitigation, and federal support, we can minimize the likelihood that future storms join the tragic roster of the deadliest hurricanes. Unfortunately, the global warming forecast is for storm warnings ahead.
Mayor Richard T. Crotty (R), Orange County, Florida
Dr. Peter Webster, Professor in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
John B. Copenhaver, President and Chief Executive Officer, DRI International
Jane Bullock, Former Chief of Staff, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt
Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy, Center for American Progress