Weather and Society Watch
Review of Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming*
Chris Mooney does an incredible job portraying the current debate over whether global warming is causing an increase in hurricane intensity, as well as providing a comprehensive history behind that debate. Storm World , like the full title promises, covers every aspect of the science behind how hurricanes form, details on predicting their scope, frequency, and intensity, the politics that scientists encounter, and the battles that have ensued between scientists.
Mooney makes it clear that the book is not about whether or not global warming exists. The book, rather, is about whether or not hurricanes are increasing in number and intensity due to global warming and understanding why there is not a solid consensus on that issue.
Overall, this is a wonderfully detailed book that takes the reader though a history of hurricane prediction research and its intersection with the field of climate modeling. It also connects the reader to the researchers themselves, presenting all sides of the story as it unfolds while giving the reader the opportunity to see the research and political timeline develop through the scientists' eyes. This approach enables the reader to truly understand why there is still a debate and why, despite that indecision, decision makers still need to act.
After telling the story from all sides, Mooney asks: Why does it matter whether or not hurricanes are getting stronger or more frequent? Then he asks a question that is of utmost relevance: Even if it is not resolved that hurricane intensities are driven by global warming, shouldn't we still put more attention towards protecting ourselves against them?
An underlying theme throughout the book points to the fact that there are a number of large, vulnerable coastal cities, including but not limited to New Orleans, that have been spared the full attack of a hurricane. Mooney says that one of the things the leading scientists actually agree on is that the outlook for these cities isn't good.
We are very vulnerable to hurricanes along our coastlines, and that vulnerability is not going away. We need to use the science that we know now about hurricanes to determine ways to protect these vulnerable areas through more intense risk assessments, building codes and other hazard mitigation strategies such as habitat restoration. Mooney also argues that we need more scientists to help bring the most current scientific relevance to the public, whether it is to policy makers or the media or to anyone trying to understand how the most current findings relate to their lives.
Ultimately, I think this book, especially the last chapter which includes Mooney's powerful conclusions about the debate and its relevance to our communities, should be read by anyone who not only has an interest in the hurricane debate, but also has an interest in the effects hurricanes might have on society.
*Mooney, Chris, 2007. Storm World. Orlando: Harcourt.
**Kate (email@example.com) is a GIS specialist at NOAA's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA).