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Climate talks address role of global warming in strengthening storms

November 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: So, is there a connection between the nearly 200-mile-an-hour winds that flattened so many Filipino communities and the warming planet?That’s the subject of our first feature segment tonight.

The sheer deadly power of the Philippines typhoon has cast a fresh spotlight on the question, are storms getting stronger as the planet gets warmer?At its peak, Typhoon Haiyan was hundreds of miles wide, with sustained winds of 190 to 195 miles an hour.That rivaled the strongest storm on record, Hurricane Camille, which struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 1969.

In the Philippines, the typhoon’s winds drove an ocean surge two stories high, destroying nearly everything in its path.

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now.

GWEN IFILL: The scope of the devastation was becoming clear as international climate talks opened in Poland yesterday.The Filipino representative delivered an emotional appeal.

YEB SANO, Philippines Climate Change Commissioner:I speak for my delegation, but I — I speak — speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves after perishing from the storm.

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I speak also for those who have been orphaned by the storm.I speak for those who have — the people now racing against time to save survivors and alleviate the suffering of the people affected.We can take drastic action now to ensure that we prevent a future where super typhoons become a way of life.

GWEN IFILL: The official said he will fast until the conference reaches a meaningful outcome.

The Philippines is no stranger to powerful storms; the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands sees some 20 typhoons a year.Scientists hesitate to pin any single event, from storms to droughts, on global warming, but they warn greenhouse gas emissions could cause extreme weather, like Typhoon Haiyan, superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to become more intense.