COLUMN: Tropical storm Harvey ignites the climate change debate
17 September, 2017, 16:57
That means less wealth to combat future challenges, whether they are climate-related or not. But the World Meteorological Organization released a statement concluding "the rainfall rates associated with Harvey were likely made more intense by anthropogenic climate change".
As Hurricane Irma approached the Miami area from the Caribbean last week, many recalled Florida Gov. Rick Scott's refusal to acknowledge the consensus of 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate scientists regarding the impact of carbon emissions and other human activities on climate change. Upton Sinclair said this almost a century ago, but it continues to explain much, including many Americans' adamant refusal to accept the reality of climate change. "It's not the approximate cause of the storm, but it makes these bad storms worse". The recovery from these catastrophic storms will take months, if not years.
It seems logical that warmer water may make storms worse, but there's no proof of that. Endless flooding. Islands leveled. He said that after our country got hit by two Atlantic Category 4 hurricanes in the same year for the first time since records have been kept - storms made more destructive by rising ocean levels and warmer ocean waters.
Fun fact: the hurricane center recycles storm names every four years, retiring the names of massive storms that do extensive damage, meaning that with a few exceptions we are operating from the same list of names this year that we did in 2005.
As of September 11, Hurricane Irma is a weakening tropical cyclone. Irma maintained winds of 185 mph or above for a total of 37 hours, the most ever for a storm. I know we have beach renourishment issues. Similarly, when Tom Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that it would be "very, very insensitive" to talk about the climate crisis at this juncture, one could only wonder whose feelings he was most concerned about.
Other administration officials also refused to address the matter.
It is tragically ironic that Florida Gov. Rick Scott - who directed Floridians to prepare or evacuate for possibly the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history - is a well known denier of global warming and climate change. President Donald Trump dismisses climate change as a "hoax".
But let's assume for a minute that because climate change is a complex process - which we do not fully understand - climate change is a low-probability, high-impact event just like a North Korean nuclear strike. While the science suggests that severe weather will become more frequent thanks to global warming, it is hard to say that global warming caused any specific storm.
CUDJOE KEY, FL - SEPTEMBER 15: Homes, boats, trees and other debris tossed by Hurricane Irma remain stacked up September 15, 2017 in Cudjoe Key, Florida.
What, if anything, does all this have to do with climate change?
"The most unsafe myth that we have bought into as a society is not the myth that climate isn't changing or that humans aren't responsible", she said. The planet is getting warmer, but most people don't see the impact this has on their daily lives. People point to images of devastating hurricanes from the early 1900s as examples of how extreme weather has always been part of coastal living.
"It's a little like listening to someone next to you speak with some very loud music in the background", said Sally Brown, a reasearch fellow at the University of Southampton.
"You can say you don't believe in gravity, but if you step off a cliff, you're going down", she said.
Scientists say it is empirical nonsense. Again, we might expect that support for global warming adaptation would be strongest among those at most risk for extreme weather.
So even if the number of mostly smaller storms diminishes, that's not what counts.
Reynolds then attempts to downplay the significance of the 51 inches of rain that Harvey dumped on Texas by pointing out that tropical storm Amelia dumped 48 inches of rain on Texas in 1978. There will doubtless be similar "retroactive forecasting" tales about Irma, so recent story-telling about Harvey may provide a precautionary warning for the unwary.
If people draw a connection between dramatic weather events and global warming, this could lead the public to put pressure on government to act.
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