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We Can’t All be Al Gore

Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas

On the heels of the LiveEarth event, which drew far less attention to global warming than organizers were hoping for (more people watched a soccer match between Argentina and Peru than watched NBC’s Saturday night broadcast of the concerts), comes this article from the Houston Chronicle suggesting that — get ready, this will challenge the gospel that you’ve heard from the media the last couple of years — the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina really isn’t all that unprecedented.
From the article:

If the Great Storm of 1900 had hit Galveston two years ago, it would have inflicted $72 billion in damage, nearly as much as Hurricane Katrina, researchers say.

Put simply, the devastation wrought by Katrina in 2005 was not unprecedented.

That’s significant in an era when some blame global warming for catastrophic hurricanes. The research concludes that economic damage from hurricanes, after being adjusted, has remained relatively constant during the last century.

When it comes to hurricanes, these scientists say, coastal development — not warming oceans — should perhaps be policymakers’ biggest concern.

And this will get people like Al Gore all upset:

“We have heard a lot of crying about doom and gloom from global warming and hurricanes,” said Willoughby, now a distinguished professor at Florida International University. “But so far, at least, we’re finding that the thing that predicts how much damage will happen is what’s built on the beach. There’s just no climate signal that shows up in the economic data.”

“It seems that we have struck a nerve by challenging the notion that global warming is responsible for everything,” said Rade Musulin, an Australia-based actuary and co-author of the new study.

Makes sense. The more expensive developments you build on the beach, the more there is to be destroyed when a storm roars ashore — and there will be storms.

For an excellent look at the 1900 storm that hit Galveston, Texas, read Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson. It follows a man named Isaac Cline, the head of the Galveston branch of the National Weather Service. In their hubris, no one thought a hurricane would really cause damage to Galveston. They were very, very wrong. The audio version is particularly good.

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