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On Thursday Pope Francis will have completed a year as Bishop of Rome, a year in which he has begun to transform the Church. But be in no doubt, argues our Rome correspondent, of just how wide and how deep go his aims for change
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The assertion by Ashley Ralston and Ellen Teague (“Climate change: a rightful cause”, 21/28 December) that Cafod have made the link between climate change and Typhoon Haiyan is step beyond what science can claim right now. The most recent report of the IPCC (AR5) on the physical science is downloadable from their website. The section TS.4.7 Climate Extremes contains the following statement:
“Globally, there is low confidence in attribution of changes in tropical cyclone activity to human influence. This is due to insufficient observational evidence, lack of physical understanding of the links between anthropogenic drivers of climate and tropical cyclone activity, and the low level of agreement between studies as to the relative importance of internal variability, and anthropogenic and natural forcings.”
This corresponds with the observation that, if anything, there is a downward trend in both the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones. This may seem counterintuitive in the present heightened atmosphere but that is what science can be like.
It is clear that over the past 40 years there has been a huge decline in the impacts of such storms on the affected communities’ thanks not only to the improvement in warnings through satellite imagery and meteorology, but also due to more resilient infrastructure. The latter has been funded through greater prosperity in the emerging economies. This prosperity has grown out of the better food supply from modern farming.
This wealth founding increase in the world’s food supply has been rooted in a growth of more than 60 per cent (from 4 per cent less land) in cereal harvest since 1980. However, in her letter (“Grains of truth”, The Tablet, 7 December) Cafod’s Dr Sarah Wykes claims to have discerned particular declines in the harvest of both maize and wheat over the same period, with ” warmer temperatures” the villain of the piece. Given the sheer number of variables involved this is remarkable. It is, however, perfectly compatible with the environmentalist determination to focus solely on the negative. Our world is warmer and has higher carbon dioxide levels than in the recent past. It is just these same factors, but in a more exaggerated form that are exploited by farmers today who grow in large greenhouses. They get much better yields and more quickly.
Dr Michael Hughes, Newbury