As the Gulf Coast of America counts the cost of two hurricanes it’s worth remembering that while Hurricanes Katrina and Rita may have grabbed the headlines across the world, America is far from being alone in counting the cost of natures fury.

Just days before Katrina caused so much devastation in New Orleans and surrounding areas, Romania, Germany, Austria and Switzerland were hit by the worst floods ever known in that part of the world. Vast areas were under water, highways became Amazon like rivers and huge mud-slides destroyed hundreds of homes. Insurers say the economic cost of the flood in Switzerland alone could be 1bn Swiss Francs. Though interestingly such is Americas media saturation, one could be forgiven for not even knowing about the floods in Europe.

It would seem that 2005 has seen some of the worst weather related disasters in recent years. The recent floods in Europe and Southern India, as well as the hurricanes in America and Typhoons in Japan have lead some people to ask why it is we are experiencing such extreme weather patterns.

Global warming has already been named as the prime suspect. More and more evidence is would seem to prove that freak weather events are increasing both in number and intensity due to the excessive burning of coal, oil and gas, and also intensive agriculture and forest clear-cutting. Scientists have long warned that failure to act now will simply increase the instances of freak weather events and global climate change and if we look at what happened only in America in the last few weeks, this would seem to be a chilling prediction of what may lie ahead.

But will the recent freak weather events change the way we live our lives and cause us to look at the question of our individual responsibilities in regards to these environmental issues? Like all of us, Jan Kowalzig from Friends of the Earth was moved by the human tragedy that unfolded in America, but he called for President Bush to look again at the question of global warming.

“President Bush must rethink his stance on global warming. In the face of mounting evidence of rapid climate change the US President has so far downplayed the scale of the problem and refused to take action to tackle it. His Administration has worked tirelessly to derail international agreements on climate change and sought to put narrow US economic interests above global climatic stability. The price to pay is too high, as we learned from this disaster, which is a taste of what we will have to live with if we continue to pollute the atmosphere.” Said Kowalzig.

Of course, as people come to terms with the devastation wreaked by the recent hurricanes in America, the question of global warming and our reliance on fossil fuel is certainly the last thing on the minds of those affected. Bringing this issue to the table now may indeed be seen as insensitive and badly timed. But when exactly is it a good time for us to question the damage that we all continue to inflict on not only the environment but also the future?