Bill McKibben: Global warming to blame for Hurricane Irene

Alec Jacobs Contributor
Font Size:

Hurricane Irene has a middle name, according to progressive author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, and it’s “Global Warming.”

The Daily Beast columnist says that because ocean temperatures are “bizarrely high” this year, a hurricane that couldn’t normally maintain such a high level of intensity north of North Carolina will reach Washington, D.C. and New York while still a Category 3 storm. (Irene to pummel weekend sports schedules)

“Waters of at least 26°C extend all the way to southern New Jersey, which will make it easier for Irene to maintain its strength much farther to the north than a hurricane usually can,” said Jeff Masters of Weather Underground. “These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical.”

“Every kind of natural system is amped up … thanks to the carbon we’ve poured into the atmosphere,” McKibben claims. This year has seen more billion-dollar weather-related disasters than any other year in U.S. history, he says, and global warming is to blame.

Arctic sea ice is nearing record lows, record floods and droughts have been reported around the world, and we’ve had more hurricanes this year than normal. “This is what climate change looks like in its early stages,” McKibben says.

McKibben’s column concludes with his claim that although Hurricane Irene will be a distraction for environmental activists in the short run, in the long run “[Irene] underlines what the fight is all about.”