John Hayward Posted: 19 May 2008
Keywords: The Environment,
"The main point that we want to emphasise is that there is no evidence in this study that we are seeing large greenhouse-gas-driven increases in Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm frequencies."
A key part of the scientific method is that predictions should be derived from any hypothesis that can then be tested. If these predictions are confirmed by subsequent observations, then the hypothesis gains credibility. If they are disproved, then the hypothesis is judged inadequate to explain the original observations. The problem with existing climate change models is the predictions they have made over short timescales of 5-10 years have repeatedly not matched subsequent observations, which makes it all the more difficult for sceptics to believe in their predictions for the next 5-10 years, let alone 50-100 years hence.
It is into this context that a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), quoted above, has published fresh research in the journal Nature Geoscience  indicating that hurricanes and tropical storms will become less frequent by the end of the century as a result of climate change, not more frequent as conventional wisdom would suggest. This is in line with other recent research showing that records over the last 150 years reveal a small decline in hurricanes making landfall in the United States as oceans warmed  and that 5000 years of sediment records point to an inverse correlation between Atlantic hurricanes and El Niño-related warming in the eastern Pacific (but no correlation with temperatures in the Atlantic) .
The trouble is, as we tried to highlight in our recent YouTube video, Environmentalists: Missing the wood for the trees?, our concern for the environment should be rooted in more than a fadish response to the greenhouse gas debate, which risks diverting attention from other pressing issues such as deforestation. For there are persistent and intractable environmental problems that remain unresolved and unaddressed, from the rapid rise of oxygen 'dead zones' in the oceans to the resurgence of new and old diseases linked in part with environmental degradation. As a report from the United Nations stated last year, the human population is living far beyond its means and we would have to cut our overall demand for resources from its present 21.9 hectares per person to 15.7 hectares per person if we are to stay within existing, sustainable limits :
- Subsidies have created excess fishing capacity, estimated at 250 per cent more than is needed to catch the oceans' sustainable production.
- Irrigation already takes about 70 per cent of available water, yet meeting the Millennium Development Goal on hunger will mean doubling food production by 2050. In addition, fresh water is declining: by 2025, water use is predicted to have risen by 50 per cent in developing countries and by 18 per cent in the developed world.
- Current biodiversity changes are the fastest in human history: Species are becoming extinct a hundred times faster than the rate shown in the fossil record - Just last week the Zoological Society of London claimed that between a quarter and a third of the world's wildlife has been lost since 1970.
As the report concluded, and we have argued in our best-selling Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living, "Fundamental changes in social and economic structures, including lifestyle changes, are crucial if rapid progress is to be achieved."