Much wailing and gnashing of teeth – especially on social media – over the recent big waves and high tides which hit South Africa’s south coast on Friday and Saturday. The combination of spring tides and a moerse end of winter storm led to damage all the way from Cape Town to Durban.
It had the climate change people claiming that it was likely down to climate change, and the climate change deniers… er… denying it. It’s all in the name.
The fact is that neither party can honestly prove anything.
One can’t pin down the huge storm surge on the weekend directly to a change in the climate. As mentioned above, there were a combination of factors which led to the flooding and the damage that we saw.
But equally, it’s absolutely no good saying that it wasn’t down to climate change just because “there was a storm surge 10 years ago”*. Climate is a very long term thing. You’re thinking of weather.
Climate refers to the long-term regional or global average of temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns over seasons, years or decades. While the weather can change in just a few hours, climate changes over longer timeframes.
The fact is that while no one single weather event is directly or wholly attributable to climate change, climate change means that we will see an increase in the number of these sort of events.
They will happen more often, and they may be more severe.
It’s not rocket science. (That’s an entirely different discipline.)
Look, if you will, at the heat in the UK. We covered this last year, when it got ridiculously hot. That was very definitely weather, but if you take a look at the trends over several decades you can see that hot days are getting hotter, and they’re getting hotter, quicker. That’s the climate, so we can expect even hotter days in the future, even more often.
Of course, then there’s the thorny subject of whether we (mankind, humans) are responsible for this change in the climate (that does or does not exist, depending on your intelligence). Yeah, I think that everything points towards us having a hand in it. But even if it’s not all down to us, why wouldn’t you want to make the world a bit of better place by not chucking out quite as many toxic fossil fuel fumes, even if it’s just because they’re toxic? With the lovely byproduct of less CO2 and less climate change.
Keep going like we are, and the only good thing that can happen is that a few more awful restaurants might end up in the Indian Ocean. And that’s scant reward considering the horrific consequences for the rest of the planet.
* which washed away a terrible restaurant in Struisbaai and almost actually made me believe in some higher power.