Remember back in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans? Immediately afterward we were all told by those in the know that because of global warming this was going to become the norm and that raging, Katrina-like storms would be routinely ravaging the United States and other hurricane prone areas like never before.

Never mind that what had once been a Category 5 hurricane was only Category 3 when it made landfall. And never mind all the special conditions peculiar to the city of New Orleans which contributed to the destruction, such as nearly half the city’s land being below sea level and the failure of badly designed and sometimes substandardly constructed levees. A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers earlier this year said that two thirds of the flooding could have been avoided if the levees had held.

But forget about all that. What happened to New Orleans would eventually befall the rest of us because of the sin of manmade global warming. One overly excitable writer in the Boston Globe said that “the hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. It’s real name is global warming.” He went on to blame every notable and destructive weather anomaly that year on — all together now — global warming.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to planetary devastation in 2006. Not one single hurricane struck the United States. Huh. Well there’s a real forehead slapper. Had to be a total fluke, right? If so, we’re having another fluky year because so far in 2007 — and the tropical season is almost over — there has only been one hurricane to hit the U.S. and it was a measly Category 1.

So what’s going on here? Where are all the global warming-induced catastrophic hurricanes that were going to make mincemeat out of U.S. coastal cities? Apparently, predicting global warming-related disasters isn’t quite as easy as it must have looked right after Katrina.

But let’s say things pick up in the next few years and Katrinas become as common as garden variety thunderstorms. Thanks to a reported scientific breakthrough, we may be able to avert countless cyclonic catastrophes without having to shut down modern civilization as we know it.

According to computer simulations performed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there may be a way to decrease the strength and alter the direction of hurricanes. The idea involves dropping soot or other black particles into the clouds at the tops of hurricanes. The particles would absorb heat from the sun which would theoretically cause a hurricane to warm up and which would in turn, theoretically, reduce its wind speed and cause its path to change.

So, if a hurricane were bearing down on a major city and it received this treatment, its intensity might be decreased and its path might be diverted away from the city. Sounds fantastic, doesn‘t it? Think of the loss of life and property that could be avoided. Talk about the greatest thing since sliced bread, really.

Unfortunately — and I hate to be a spoilsport here, but — there’s just one problem: lawyers.

Well, of course. How could it be any other way? What initially sounds like one of the greatest technological innovations that could ever be developed to benefit mankind would really just be one more excuse for an endless morass of contentious lawsuits. Here’s the problem in a nutshell. If you divert a hurricane away from a major city and then it hits Podunkville instead, the folks in Podunkville are going to sue the pants off somebody for causing a hurricane to hit them.

And who could really blame them? If scientists hadn’t interfered, Podunkville would have missed the brunt of the hurricane, but instead it got hammered. Sounds like an open-and-shut case to me. If jurors will award millions to someone who spilt hot McDonalds coffee in her own lap, they’d likely break the bank over something this obvious and this big.

It’s not the end of the story just yet, however, because the team of scientists at MIT has now hired a professor of risk management to help them try and solve all the pesky legalities that could otherwise doom a great thing. Well, okay, good luck with that. But in a society as insanely litigious as this one — where a baby stroller, for instance, comes with a warning label that says “Remove Child Before Folding” — it’s hard to imagine how you lawyer-proof the activity of hurricane diversion.

Just when you think that man is ready to resourcefully adapt to the potential hazards of climate change rather than shut down the use of prosperity-generating energy, you’re brought back to reality by the prospect of a looming tsunami of litigation. Who would have thought that ambulance chasers would one day become storm chasers?

Greg Strange provides conservative commentary with plenty of acerbic wit on the people, politics, events and absurdities of our time. See more at his website:

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