To the Editor:
I have seen very little in the corporate media connecting Hurricane Harvey with human-caused climate change. Wonder why? Yet the cause-and--effect relationship is “as plain as the nose on your face.”
Here are some contributing factors:
• Rising sea levels. Due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels, oceans have risen by more than a foot since 1960 in the Gulf off the Texas coast, increasing Harvey’s storm surge that washed into homes and communities.
• A warmer ocean leading to more rain. The Gulf of Mexico was 2 to 7 degrees hotter than usual this August, above 80 degrees. Thus, more water evaporated into the storm, and more rain was dumped on the people of Houston.
• A warmer ocean also leads to stronger storms. Harvey grew from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane with winds of 235-plus mph in 48 hours. A hotter planet creates a hotter ocean creates such rapid intensification.
Many climate change deniers live in both Houston and Washington, DC. Such denial of climate science and resulting political decisions make us unprepared for such “unnatural” disasters. Isn’t it interesting that Exxon, whose officials publicly pooh-poohed global warming for 30 years while their own research confirmed it, suffered damage to one of their Houston refineries!
Here are some examples of what current actions in Washington are doing to guarantee that other disasters like Harvey will occur:
• Deregulating “Big Oil’s” toxic pollution and the proposed shutdown of the EPA, whose purpose is to protect vulnerable communities adjacent to oil refineries and chemical plants.
• Persecuting immigrant communities. As the storm threatened, ICE was busy rounding up undocumented immigrants seeking safety from the approaching devastation. Its aggressive policing had generated a climate of fear that kept families from seeking shelter.
• Building in the path of the storm. Trump has now signed an executive order instructing the government to ignore climate change when constructing new infrastructure — which means putting more of us in the path of destruction from future storms.
While powerful and well-heeled executives and politicians deceive and manipulate in order to line their pockets, ordinary people like those in Texas we’ve seen on TV lose their homes, livelihoods, health, and sometimes their lives. Yet it’s the votes of “we the people” that have put them in place. Harvey is (another) wake-up call. Unless we take steps to keep fossil fuels in the ground, invest in renewables, drive these (mis)leaders out of office, and plan for a drastically changed world, more people will lose their homes, their hopes, and their lives.
Will we pay attention this time and act for change, or will we once again be lulled into complacency by a veneer of prosperity, the football season, a favorite sitcom, or going shopping?