Let’s hear it for the dolphins, let’s hear it for the trees, ain’t running out of nothing in my deep freeze.” So sang Mark Knopfler of the Dire Straits in a satirical track called “My Parties”. That attitude perhaps exemplifies US President Donald Trump’s flip-flops over whether he wants to pull out of the Paris Accord on climate change, which pledged to limit emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
As he prepares to defend his position on climate change in the UN, he might want to consider a few names. Like Irma and Maria. Irma, a Category 5 megastorm, destroyed several Caribbean islands last week before hitting Florida, causing at least 84 deaths, including 45 in the Caribbean and 39 in the US, and damage estimated at over $1 billion.
Close on its heels comes Hurricane Maria, expected to become another Category 5 hurricane before it reaches Puerto Rico early Wednesday. While the Caribbean island and unincorporated US territory of 3.4 million people is accustomed to tropical storms, it hasn’t been hit by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane since 1928.
The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale, used to describe hurricanes forming in the Atlantic and northern Pacific Ocean, classifies them into five categories based on the intensity of their sustained winds. To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical cyclone must have maximum sustained winds of at least 119 kmph (Category 1). The highest classification in the scale, Category 5, is for storms with sustained winds exceeding 251 kmph.
In comparison, cyclone Vardah which devastated Chennai in 2016 had wind speeds of 110-120 kmph. Regardless of whether you are a believer in climate change or a sceptic like Trump, our world has been increasingly experiencing bizarre and destructive weather, and the global ocean watermark has gone up eight inches on average since the 1880s, mostly due to the melting of the snowcaps in the North and South Poles. Ignoring this will not make the problem go away.