Cyclone Mocha: Don’t Fall for the Climate Bait

By Vijay Jayaraj

On May 14, Cyclone Mocha made landfall near Myanmar and Bangladesh. It was not surprising to see many mainstream media blame climate change for it. The pattern has now become common.

Every time there is a major cyclonic event, the media fan fear of climate change and argue that human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide are causing more extreme weather. However, an examination of relevant data shows such reports to be misleading.

As I write this, Mocha has made landfall close to the Myanmar–Bangladesh border. Residents of coastal districts of Chattogram and Barishal are likely to experience the worst impact of the cyclone for weeks to come.

Among the most vulnerable are refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar and have been living for half a decade in Bangladesh camps without the protection of storm-resistant shelter. As sad as the situation is, cyclones are not unprecedented for the region.

Incidence of Cyclonic Storms are Decreasing

According to the Indian Government’s “Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region,” overall cyclone frequency in the Indian Ocean is showing no increase. In fact, there has been a decrease.

“Long-term observations (1951–2018) indicate a significant reduction in annual frequency of tropical cyclones” in both the North Indian Ocean basin and the Bay of Bengal, the report states.

Image: Annual Frequency of Cyclonic Storm (CS) between 1891 and 2016. Linear trend lines are indicated by dashed lines—black (1891–2018), blue (1951–2018). 10-year running mean is shown by a solid-green line. Source: Extreme Storms, Indian Meteorological Department, Govt. of India. Published June 13, 2020.

The data clearly show a decrease in frequency of cyclones for more than 100 years in the North Indian Ocean, the birthplace of storms affecting more than 1.5 billion people. However, this information is obscured by cherry picking data for shorter times frames to suggest alarming weather trends.

Hurricane Data Reveal Similar Decrease in U.S.

It is not just the Indian Ocean region. In the U.S., there has been a decrease in the number of landfalling hurricanes per decade since 1850. According to data from the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the number of major hurricanes have been declining since the 1950s.

“In summary, it is premature to conclude with high confidence that increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities have had a detectable impact on Atlantic basin hurricane activity,” NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory states.

The mainstream media is good at tricking people into believing a false emergency. In instances like Cyclone Mocha, they prey on people’s compassion for storm victims and use the calamity to drive fear into people’s minds.

Don’t fall for the climate bait. We will see more and more of it in the coming days, as the climate doomsday bandwagon loses steam in many parts of our world. And desperate times call for desperate deceptions embedded onto the public psyche through repetitive, aggressive media programming.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK and resides in India.