I just saw the Nova program about Hurricane Harvey, which flooded Houston and surrounding areas in 2017. As this year’s hurricane season and election seasons begin, we all should review the historical facts and human tragedies that the show presents. In brief, at least eighty-two (82) deaths and about one hundred twenty five billion dollars ($125,000,000,000.00) of damage resulted from Harvey. Millions of people and their homes were severely affected by it.
Harvey was a “five-hundred-year storm” in its size and power. This means that the odds of such a storm in that location, each year, are said to be one in five-hundred, based on long-term records of the weather. Or I should say, the odds once were considered to be one in five-hundred.
There were three “500-year” storms in three years in Houston; the third was Harvey. If you think the odds this year are still one in five-hundred, you should not do any insurance underwriting, nor sports betting.
Scientists know beyond doubt that storm strength (the wind and rainfall) increase more when the storm passes over warmer water. Houston is on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The surface water of the Gulf of Mexico steadily grows warmer in recent decades; we measure it carefully with buoys and satellites. The gradual warming of the Gulf (and the planet) agrees completely with scientists’ understanding of climate change, greenhouse gasses, and global warming.
Two more huge hurricanes, Irma and Maria, struck after Harvey in the 2017 season. We were lucky that “only” a few Americans died and damage was “only” a few billions of dollars in those storms. Cuba, Barbuda, and St Martin were less lucky. Those storms grew stronger, faster, than almost any storms on record. Scientists know that this was because the water of the Gulf of Mexico is warmer than ever. Scientists know that the warming of the Gulf is because of global warming of the climate. Scientists know that global warming is caused by human releases of greenhouse gasses. Real scientists agree on these things and signed a unanimous declaration to that effect years ago. Denials are just propaganda; investigate them and you will not find reputable scientists denying the proven models of climate.
It doesn’t matter how you voted or who pays for your candidate’s campaigns. Climate change is obvious to your common sense, and is also well-settled science. If you denied the science, last year you helped kill 82 people in Houston and many more elsewhere. If you deny climate change and global warming today, you point a gun at hundreds of millions of Americans and others people.
Put down the gun. Reject people who reject climate science, and correct all statements that reject climate science. For God’s sake – for the nation’s sake – for the children’s sake – for the sake of your own soul and your own self-respect! – reject and correct the anti-science propaganda. That propaganda comes from corporate interests, cynical demagogues, and Russian spies. Stating the truth is the first step to deal with a very large problem, one that we have mostly ignored.
It isn’t hopeless. Those 82 people didn’t have to die. Preserving wetlands would have helped. Reducing global warming would have helped. The steps in the Paris Accords would have helped.
Correct policies begin with respect for truth, especially for scientific truth. And today, only one of the two major political parties in the USA has respect for science. Only that party deserves your respect.