January 15th, 2021

Boiling frogs and tropical storms

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on May 23, 2020.

Changing climate will force many people to relocate

I’ve never really believed the story climate crusaders tell to explain why so many people don’t get the message. You know, the one where if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water it will hop right out, whereas if you just turn the heat up slowly it won’t notice. It will stay there and boil to death.

I’ve never actually tried the experiment, but surely not even frogs are that stupid. And I’m pretty sure human beings aren’t.

So why didn’t the good people of Houston start campaigning against global heating after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 left a third of their city underwater?

Why didn’t the citizens of the Philippines demand that their country end its heavy reliance on burning coal for power after Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 6,300 of them in 2013?

Why weren’t the survivors in the state of Orissa up in arms about India’s greenhouse-gas emissions after the most intense cyclone in history killed 15,000 of them in 1999?

Well, partly because there were no data proving that the warming was making the tropical storms worse. Pretty well everybody in the meteorological trade and a great many lay people assumed that to be the case, but the evidence just wasn’t there. Until now – and as if to celebrate its belated arrival, here comes another monster storm.

On Sunday and Monday Super-cyclone Amphan spun up quickly over the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, going from nothing much to a Category 5 tropical storm and adding 175 kph (110 mph) to its sustained wind speed in only 36 hours. India’s meteorologists were predicting that the surge of water when it hit the coast would be as high as three to five metres (10-16 feet).

Cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes (all the same phenomenon, just in different oceans) are capricious. Their winds drop rapidly over land, and they are most destructive if they move slowly and loiter just off the coast. But at best Amphan will be bad, and it could be very bad indeed.

People living around the Bay of Bengal know that the storms are getting worse: 140,000 people died when Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma (Myanmar) in May 2008. So do people living around the Caribbean, on the U.S. eastern seaboard, and at the western end of “typhoon alley” (the Philippines, China, Korea and Japan).

But they needed hard evidence, and now they have it. A study by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the (U.S.) National Academy of Sciences, confirms that there is a direct link between warmer oceans, more water vapour in the air, and bigger storms.

Not more storms, but MUCH bigger. In fact, the likelihood that any given tropical storm will grow into a Category 3 or higher hurricane (or the equivalent in terms of cyclones and typhoons) is rising by eight per cent per decade.

Could it just be natural variation? James Kossin, lead author of the new study, doesn’t think so: “We have high confidence that there is a human fingerprint on these changes.” The data extend over four decades, which means the number of Category 3+ hurricanes has grown by a third since 1980.

It can only get worse, as will almost every other climate impact. The average global temperature now is 1.1¡C above the pre-industrial average, but there is already enough carbon dioxide in the air to give us another half degree C of warming when it delivers its final load.

Never mind all the extra carbon dioxide that will be dumped into the atmosphere next month, next year, next decade. What will just the amount that we have already put there do to the tropical storms? The point will come, as with most of the other climate changes, when the local environment is no longer compatible with a normal human lifestyle.

For the 500 million people who live around the Bay of Bengal, the world’s biggest bay, the breaking point may be massive cyclones and floods that are made worse by sea level rise. For others it may be intense heat and permanent drought. In some places, it will be famine. But at least a quarter of the world’s population is going to have to move in the next 50 years.

Where to? No idea. With almost eight billion people, the world is pretty full up already.

Interviewing a couple of climate scientists recently, I saw for the first time a graph, modelling the future of a runaway warming world, that explicitly included a “death” term. Mass death, that is. It made me feel a bit frog-like.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is “Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).”

Share this story:

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sea levels have been rising at a relatively constant rate of 3 mm/yr. In 50 yrs the rise will be 150 mm (6 inches). If it triples the rise would be 18 inches. If you are that concerned about “where to?”, perhaps take a few in.

Southern Albertan

The Syrian conflict comes to mind with regard to mass migration of peoples. It has been said that climate change contributed to the conflict in Syria. The reasons are explained here:
“A major contributor to the Syrian conflict? Climate change.”
A subtitle in this article: “Water wars are coming.”
Water rights are a significant factor in the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
This might be an interesting read:
“Climate change and the Water Crisis in Israel”
And as we should know, our Canadian glaciers in the Rockies are melting at an alarming rate because of climate change. This:
“Alberta faces future flood, drought extremes as climate change hits Prairies hard, expert warns”


while the entries are as thought provoking as they are dire, please do not distract from the ONLY news that seems to matter today: covid. indeed, “we are sorry to interrupt our covid coverage with a spot of news.” seems even the ubiquitous international terrorists have laid down their terrorist ways to accommodate covid.

Southern Albertan

Yes, and whilst the COVID pandemic has raged on, disaster capitalism is alive and well in Kenney UCP Alberta…..a blatant connection between gutting the provincial park system whilst relaxing the requirements for open pit coal mining in the southwestern hills of Alberta. Coal? The most pertinent global fossil fuel polluter…….Unreal. We should not be tolerating this. Everyone, if you disagree with open pit coal mining in the hills of southwestern Alberta, you need to write a letter of protest to your MLA.

Dennis Bremner

Well it appears to be an easy answer, the Treehuggers Society of BC cannot tolerate the transportation of Oil and will not tolerate the pollution of their part of the planet any longer!! But, the Treehugging Society of BC also has the “largest Coal Export Facility in North America”, on their waterfront! So I would say the Treehugging society of BC who believes Coal is great for the planet gave the “Okay” to Alberta to send them some of the Albertan Coal because its really really really better than Oil. The justification for Planet Pure BC Coal, is of course we cannot have these trains carrying Oil endangering the planet, because thats really foolish…its obvious transportation of “coal is far safer then oil” to transport!! soooooo lets do coal…its an amazing X/Millenial process of reasoning. Profits? They keep rollin in for the Treehugging Society of BC and their coal port keeps rollin it out to all who will take it.
When was the last time you saw the Treehugging Society of BC picketing the Coal waterfront facility or protesting too much Coal Ship traffic?
It appears the Coal ships are whale friendly and Oil ships aren’t

Not a treehugger to be seen https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-dirty-secret-of-coal-exports-from-the-port-of-vancouver/

Strange not even Eliz May and her Greens have showed up to protest? Wonder why? Seems strange that May can proclaim Oil Dead, yet has never dared to make the same proclamation on here funding group out of the “Port of Vancouver”?
“In 2017 the Port of Vancouver exported more than 36 million tonnes of coal. To put this into perspective, this port ships more coal than the legendary American coal centre Norfolk, Virginia, which exported 31.5 million tonnes that same year. The Port of Vancouver also handles more than double the amount that is produced in all of the coal mines in Mexico in a single year.”

The two faces of BC!

Southern Alberta thinks that if we stop Alberta from exporting anything, that the planet will be better off, unfortunately our neighbours are with you, shut down Alberta and it makes “their same products worth more”. Its all about power and money and you still don’t get it. Be pure and planet friendly and die, while the Huggers proclaim they are, they are flushing their sewage out the back door for big bucks and you don’t get it.

Southern Albertan

Re: treehugging, power and money, one of my main concerns for open pit coal mining would be the negative and toxic impact on our watersheds. Clean and non-poisoned water? Necessary for life? Life=priceless? Perhaps we could have more, and better, expert commentary on what would be happening to, our, watersheds as a result of open pit coal mining in the hills of southern Alberta and whether the powers-that-be would protect, our, waters. This would be just as important as protection of Albertans with regard to COVID-19.
And, I am well aware that there is a cavalier attitude and a lack of understanding re: wildlife. Unfortunately, in the circle of life, if we do not take care of wildlife, habitats, etc., we are not taking care of ourselves. Wildlife and habitats are the canaries in the coal mine after all.
I guess there is the thing with money and power being more important than life, but as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you when you die. Would that be understood, at all? Would we need to be more fussy about what happens, to, us?
And re: sewage out the back door and other pollution issues, the tit-for-tat many ‘wrongs’ do not make many ‘rights.’
The national news commentary today is correct, there should have been open and transparent consultation with us, the public, Albertans, on this issue. That this has not happend gives a good indication that the Kenney UCP could really give a rats about our wellbeing.

Dennis Bremner

Very soon South AB you will realize that when 4/5ths of your revenue drys up, 1/5th will not keep you in your social lifestyle you had. Facts are terrible when you have to face them. If Kenney failed to secure other revenues, things would collapse in Alberta, which is happening before your eyes but like the Medical Profession of this Province, just can’t quite see it yet.


another excellent entry, so.ab. thank you.

Southern Albertan

Thanks biff! There is something to be said for, some, not seeing the forest for the trees eh?! 🙂