The tragedy underway in Texas should not become a political issue – not yet, anyway. The focus right now must be on helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey survive and recover. But this latest in the growing list of weather disasters should be sending a strong message to those who could do something about global climate change but deny that it is real.
We should not be surprised if on his next trip to Houston, the Denier-in-Chief tells flooded families that they are the victims of a Chinese hoax rather than a storm made catastrophic by global warming.
Hurricane Harvey has put some of our elected skeptics on defense as climate experts repeat that global warming is making the weather more violent and its impacts more severe. Several factors consistent with climate change contributed to this storm, including the unusually warm water in the Gulf of Mexico that gave Harvey more energy.
It is another example of how weather disasters that statistics say should occur once every 1,000 or 500 years are becoming the new norm. After visiting Texas this week, Donald Trump said he was “heartbroken” at what was happening there. But his brand of heartbreak is like feeling sorry for a cancer victim while opposing research to cure the disease. Trump’s emasculation of federal climate science, his plug-pulling on websites offering information about global warming and its impacts, and his vendetta against all of the climate-action policies and programs initiated by Barack Obama are not only negligent. They are cruel.
In the first six months of this year, there were 49 weather, climate and flood disasters that caused at least one death and at least $3 million in damages in the United States. Data from the reinsurance company Munich Re show that the number of disasters here was second only to the 59 weather disasters that took place in the U.S. during the first six months of 2012. Munich Re’s experts attribute the high number of severe thunder storms to “abnormally warm water” in the Pacific Ocean, not unlike the unusually warm water in the Gulf.
It is not enough for the President of the United States and Members of Congress to fly over one devastated region after another to show their sympathy and to praise the efforts to save people on the ground. Sympathy is not a solution. This disaster, like most others, teaches lessons about where and how we build our cities. But it should also send a message to elected officials: Their days in public office are numbered if they don’t finally do something about climate change.
For Donald Trump and his crew, that means restoring all of the federal policies, programs and science they are destroying, and putting the United States back in the Paris climate accord. If they don’t, we and generations to come can thank Trump and the denial camp for their contributions to the many record-setting disasters that lie ahead.