As the Philippines grieves, counts its dead and starts the long task of rebuilding, one of the questions looming in the air is whether man made climate change played a role in Typhoon Haiyan (aka Yolanda). There are some things we know, such as Haiyan being the strongest storm ever measured and that extreme weather can be linked to climate change. But did Haiyan cause the super typhoon or intensify it?

Here are some political, journalistic and (gasp!) the scientific voices.

Let’s start with two quotes from climate scientists (via the Guardian):

We know sea-surface temperatures are warming pretty much around the planet, so that’s a pretty direct influence of climate change on the nature of the storm.

– Professor Will Steffen, Australian National University

The current consensus is that climate change is not making the risk of hurricanes any greater, but there are physical arguments and evidence that there is a risk of more intense hurricanes.

– Professor Myles Allen, University of Oxford

So there are strong arguments for general trends in climate change regarding the intensity of storms. Allen also stresses the unpredictable nature of climate change, particularly in terms of who is most affected by it.

Perhaps the boldest statement was made by Yeb Sano, the head of the Philippines delegation at UN climate talks in Poland (via BBC News):

In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate, this means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this Cop, until a meaningful outcome is in sight.

What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw.

Photo Credit: Arlynn Aquino EU/ECHO, Leyte, Philippiones, November 2013

Photo Credit: Arlynn Aquino EU/ECHO, Leyte, Philippiones, November 2013

Sano’s opinions regarding the rich world’s lack of action on climate change are common among Filipino leaders.

On balance, many climate researchers think it is plausible to assume that tropical storm activity will rise. Some evidence exists that storm intensity has indeed increased, but it is limited to the North Atlantic, where observations are most abundant. In other places, the available evidence is not yet conclusive.

Scientific American

While Yeb Sano fasting for climate action in specific relation to Typhoon Haiyan may not have solid scientific backing, he has a wealth of evidence from the scientific community supporting stepping up tactics in order to leverage any kind of action regarding climate change. The Philippines is also one of the most vulnerable countries in that regard, with its capital Manila being the world’s 3rd most at risk city.

The realist in me knows that sufficient action for even mitigating climate change at the Warsaw meeting is a pipe dream, what to speak of stopping it. In a world where those with the most money make the big decisions, we can scarcely hope for the necessary changes that would mitigate climate change to occur. We are still arguing with unscientific opinions over the reality of climate change, but even if politicians all agreed openly about climate change, business interests would resist and get more puppets elected. The only answer is a completely different world system.

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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