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Hurricane Katrina should be a wake up call for President Bush on the need for urgent US action to tackle climate change, Friends of the Earth said today. The hurricane is one of the worst natural disasters America has ever faced and is a stark reminder of what scientists expect to happen as a result of human induced climate change.

Although there is at present no means by which to tell whether this particular storm was due to human induced global warming, the devastation it has caused is consistent with the projections generated by climate change models that suggest such storms will become more severe as the world warms up.

Computer models projecting the impacts of climate change on the weather suggest that increased sea surface temperatures caused by global warming will lead to more intense hurricanes. Research findings published in the science journal Nature [1] in July suggests that this is already happening. The analysis, by climatologist Professor Kerry Emanuel of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, says that major storms in the Atlantic and Pacific since the 1970s have increased in intensity by about 50 per cent. This trend is closely linked to rises in the average temperatures of the sea surface.

In stark contrast to the position of the Bush Administration, the New Orleans City Council in May 2001 passed a resolution urging federal action on climate change. And the danger posed to the city by global warming was recognised in June by New Orleans Mayor, C. Ray Nagin who noted. "The International Panel on Climate Change has warned that New Orleans is the North American city most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The rise of the Earth's temperature, causing sea level increases that could add up to one foot over the next 30 years, threatens the very existence of New Orleans"[2].

Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth, said that

"The Earth is warming up fast and the consequences of extreme weather are being felt in all regions. In the face of mounting evidence of rapid climate change President Bush has downplayed the scale of the problem and refused to take action to tackle it. His Administration has worked tirelessly to derail international agreement on climate change and sought to put narrow US economic interests above global climatic stability. In the aftermath of this storm even he must wonder if he has made the correct choice".


[1] Nature 4 August: "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years", by Kerry Emanuel.

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust