Hurricane Harvey: Climate change - not fake news

Is it too much to ask that Trump cast aside his infamous cloak of scepticism and denial about climate change?

People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey on an air boat in Dickinson,Texas. Photo:  Reuters

People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey on an air boat in Dickinson,Texas. Photo: Reuters

 

The catastrophic Hurricane Harvey has been described as a “once in 500 years” weather event. That is little comfort to those affected, a the United States’ ability to withstand storms that are becoming more ferocious due to climate change is already very much in doubt. President Trump will not be able to swat away “fake news” warnings about the immediate consequences of global warming so easily in future.

The storm deposited the equivalent of a year’s rainfall in a day and wreaked havoc across the states of Texas and Louisiana. The relationship between hurricanes and climate is complex, but one trend is undeniable. Atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are rising as a consequence of human-induced C02 emissions.

It is a hard lesson that the people of north west Ireland are coming to terms with after the sting in the tail of Hurricane Gert. While there were particular meteorological circumstances that led to floods there, the impact of climate change undoubtedly increased the magnitude of the event. For every degree the Earth warms, the atmosphere can hold 7 per cent more water vapour. The inevitable consequence is more rainfall.

There is evidence we are nearing a tipping point, even as President Trump stands almost alone among world leaders in rejecting this view. With his unrelenting wish to dismantle Obama’s legacy, he has ended efforts to ensure a better federal response to natural disasters, a strategy informed by the lessons of Hurricane Sandy and rescinded an executive order requiring better flood risk management standards.

As natural disasters increase in frequency and size,we need to prepare for this new normal. As the climate expert Nick Mabey tweeted this week: “Climate reality doesn’t care about spin or ‘fake news’ - it happens and Trump will have to deal with it.” Now that he has witnessed first-hand the ferocious power of nature and seen the devastation for so many US citizens, is it too much to ask that he cast aside his infamous cloak of scepticism and denial about climate change?

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