One way to curb raging elements

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You read of more than a thousand American troops killed in the war in Iraq, never mind the number of Iraqis. In Sudan, 50,000 dead and 1.6 million people uprooted; more than 330 children and teachers slain in an assault on a school in southern Russia; and dozens of Palestinians and Israelis killed. What these have in common is that they are all examples of man's inhumanity to man.

And then, vying for newspaper space or time on the tube, is the violence committed by forces of nature - the hurricanes sweeping through Florida and the helpless Caribbean islands like Haiti and Grenada - and you have to stop for a minute to distinguish between the violence committed by human hands and the violence committed by raging elements beyond the control of human hands.

Or is the separation so clear anymore? I'm looking at a report in the New York Times on an extensive computer analysis of hurricanes and global warming published by the Journal of Climate. It says that by 2080, hurricanes will grow stronger and wetter as a result of global warming. That's because hurricanes draw their intensity from the warming of ocean waters. Dr. Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says of the report, "This clinches the issue."

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The Bush administration has adamantly refused to sign the Kyoto accord, a treaty aimed at diminishing the threat of global warming. Russia has now agreed to support that treaty. At the United Nations last week, leaders of small island nations pleaded for more attention to the potential for devastation from tidal surges. Dr. James Elsner, a hurricane expert at Florida State University, was among the first to predict the recent increase in Atlantic storm activity.

Now with the increase in greenhouse gases, the hurricane danger is bound to get worse and worse over the next 40 years. But, like the ballooning budget deficit, that's something for another generation to worry about.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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