Letter to the Editor: Karl Koeval

Karl Koeval, Science Teacher

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Dear Editor,

The issue of The Zephyr distributed on September 28, 2018 contained an opinion article titled “In the Eye of the Storm”. Unfortunately, the article made several assertions that are not supported by research data, and I would like to address these. First, the article says that “when thinking about hurricanes and how they have worsened, we as a society project them to be intensified by global warming/climate change”. The idea that hurricanes have worsened is not borne out by the research data. Klotzbach and Landsea (2015) in the Journal of Climate (Extremely Intense Hurricanes: Revisiting Webster et al. (2005) after 10 Years) stated: “the global frequency of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has shown a small, insignificant downward trend while the percentage of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has shown a small, insignificant upward trend between 1990 and 2014.” Additionally, Klotzbach, Bowen, Pielke Jr., and Bell (2018) in the Journal of the American Meteorological Society (Continental U.S. Hurricane Landfall Frequency and Associated Damage) found “neither U.S. landfalling hurricane frequency nor intensity shows a significant trend since 1900”. Finally, in the words of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/), “It is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity”.

Two other statements in The Zephyr article are “these natural disasters come with little warning” and that the Carolinas are “unaccustomed to hurricane weather”. I respectfully submit that this is inaccurate. With hurricanes, we typically have many days to prepare– “Florence talk” abounded during the week preceding her arrival on our shores. Plus, during the years 1851-2017, North Carolina was hit by 51 hurricanes and South Carolina by 32, so I suggest that we ARE accustomed to it. Or at least we should be. We will surely be hit again.

Though not addressed in the Zephyr article, people often note that hurricanes cause more damage than they used to, but the reason for this is not in the hurricanes themselves. Klotzbach, Bowen, Pielke Jr., and Bell (2018) found that the “increase in damage is strongly due to societal factors, namely, increases in population and wealth along the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts. This highlights the continued importance of modernized and consistent building codes across hurricane-prone states, updated flood maps, and improved coastal and inland infrastructure.”

My opinion is that instead of trying to stop any climate change that may come, we should learn to adapt to it. To lessen our impact on climate change by sharply reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would necessarily force us to abandon the quality of life we enjoy. I am not sure people fully realize how much they would have to give up about their lifestyle to significantly reduce GHG emissions. When push comes to shove, and people really see what would change in their life and what the monetary cost will be to goods and services as a result of GHG reductions, I believe most would embrace an alternate solution: adapt.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Karl Koeval