Real Danger Lurks ⁠i⁠n ⁠t⁠he Shadows

By: The James Madison Institute / 2011



By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends today on November 30, but the ill wind stirred by global warming hysteria continues to blow.
Weather experts proclaimed that the 2011 hurricane season had tied for third place on the list of the most active storm seasons on record. TheNationalHurricaneCentertracked 19 tropical storms in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and/or theCaribbean. Seven became hurricanes, and three of those reached Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, thereby being dubbed “major hurricanes.”Some media proponents of global warming hysteria and its related agenda – rigid governmental controls over the economy and people’s lives – immediately seized upon the characterization of the hurricane season as among the worst on record. They opined that this year’s storms were but an omen of the climate catastrophes to come if the world doesn’t follow the advice proffered by, say, the noted meteorologist Al Gore in his horror show, “An Inconvenient Truth.”On the other hand, let’s leave aside Big Government’s version of the truth and consider a few inconvenient facts:

As columnist Bret Stephens pointed out in “The Great Global Warming Fizzle” in the Nov. 29th edition of the Wall Street Journal, “On Sunday, 2,232 days will have elapsed since a category 3 hurricane made landfall in the U.S., the longest period in more than a century that the U.S. has been spared a devastating storm.” 
Another batch of newly released emails suggests that some climate scientists have been trying to distort data and hide information that calls their theories into question. Some seem to fear that exposing the flaws in their theories might endanger the grants they’ve been receiving to promote the official government line with regard to climate change.
Finally, consider poor little old Tropical Storm Franklin, who illustrates how satellite technology and other forms of modern communication have inflated the number of storms so much that it’s no wonder recent storm seasons are considered busier than those in the past.Franklinformed on August 13, its winds reached a peak of 45 mph, andFranklinfizzled out early on August 14. This “storm” – little more than a disturbance of less than 24 hours duration – was pretty far north in the Atlantic, was headed northeast, and was never a threat to the United States, although it did “dump” .07 inches of rain – that’s seven one-hundredths of an inch – on the airport in Bermuda.

Magicians create illusions through the art of legerdemain. They divert the audience’s attention from spots that might reveal how an illusion is created. Unfortunately, the global warming alarmists’ “magical mystery tour,” which has been relentlessly promoted by the mainstream media, has had a similar effect of diverting attention from more serious threats.Indeed, Floridians – even schoolchildren — are constantly being warned of doomsday scenarios – droughts, floods, famine, seas engulfingFlorida, wars engulfing the world – that might occur by the year 2100 if we do not heed the warnings of the global warming alarmists.Meanwhile, there is widespread complacency about a much more dangerous and imminent threat toFlorida. Whether hurricane seasons are busy or not, it only takes one — andFlorida, with much of its long coastline lined with structures scant yards from the ocean, is particularly vulnerable. In fact, of the most damaging natural disasters inU.S.history, 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, slammed intoSoutheast Floridafairly late (August 24) as the first storm to form in what was otherwise a fairly quiet season after a long series of relatively quiet storm seasons.One lingering consequence of that 1992 storm is that the state ofFloridagot into the property insurance business – initially as an “insurer of last resort” for those who could not otherwise obtain coverage. The state’s role increased after the spate of storms in 2004-05. Now the state’s Citizens Property Insurance isFlorida’s largest provider of coverage, a status it has achieved largely by default as private insurers began fleeing the state because of the hostile regulatory climate that prevailed during the administration of Gov. Charlie Crist.Unfortunately, Citizens lacks sufficient resources to cover the losses that could occur if a major hurricane made landfall inFlorida– as one or more surely will, sooner or later, irrespective of global warming. To pay claims, Citizens would have to borrow billions of dollars – not easy on Wall Street nowadays – and repay the money plus interest primarily by imposing a steep tax on the premiums of property insurance and vehicle insurance.This is a scenario that could lead to a fiscal disaster forFlorida– and ought to worry Floridians far more than the global warming alarmists’ disputed prophecies that the sea level might or might not rise if people continue to exhale.