Changing climate yields biblical weather
To discuss climate change now — in the wake of Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria — is insensitive. At least, it is to Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
But if not now, then when?
Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged Houston with its unprecedented rainfall, could cost as much as $180 billion in damage, Gov. Greg Abbott said. But among the Houstonians who lost up to 40,000 homes and 500,000 cars, the damage hits much closer to home.
Harvey was just the beginning. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season brought along 13 other named storms so far. Of the 13, seven were hurricanes, and of the seven, four — Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria — reached Category 3 or higher.
With such an intense storm record and still two months remaining this hurricane season, it’s only natural to wonder if climate change is playing some type of role behind the scenes. The general consensus within the scientific community is that no, climate change did not cause these storms to form. The effects of climate change, however, such as rising sea levels and warmer oceans, made these storms much worse by creating more rainfall, intensity and storm surge.
The surface temperatures in the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean were between 0.5°C and 1°C above average this summer, and warm water provides fuel for hurricanes. A study by NASA even found that hurricanes intensify much faster now, reaching Category 3 wind speeds nine hours before they did in the 1980s.
So why is Washington acting like talking about climate change after deadly storms is as controversial as talking about gun control after a mass shooting?
If policymakers want to protect citizens from increasingly powerful storms, then they are obligated to talk about it.
President Donald Trump called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese government to make U.S. manufacturing less competitive. Then, he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to cut carbon emissions, leaving the U.S. in the company of Syria as the only countries to not be a part of the agreement.
Meanwhile, Pruitt refuses to acknowledge that carbon emissions from vehicles and power plants are the primary contributor to the issue. The EPA is even rolling back regulations aimed at cutting carbon emission.
Talking about climate change now is more important than ever. After the devastating impact of Harvey and Irma, people are finally realizing that, yes, climate change should matter to them, and politicians should stop making it a partisan issue during a time when science is becoming increasingly political.
We must discuss climate change now. For measure, 9,135 out of 9,136 scientists who authored climate change research articles between 2012 and 2013 believed climate change is exacerbated by humans. If you had a tumor, and 99.99 percent of doctors told you it was cancerous, would you then listen to the .01 percent of doctors who say you have nothing to worry about?
Without action, storms will continue to intensify. We in Houston know this firsthand. Hurricane Harvey — our third “500-year flood” in three years — grew from a weakened tropical depression to a Category 4 hurricane in just 57 hours due to abnormally warm water in the Gulf of Mexico.
We must do whatever possible to make climate change a nonpartisan issue. Our future depends on it. It’s not about criticizing those who reject mainstream climate science; it’s about helping everyone understand that we all have something to lose if inaction continues.
Otherwise, future hurricanes will be stronger and devastate other cities like Harvey devastated Houston.