Vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Michael voted for cli­mate de­niers

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - John Abra­ham

Florid­i­ans are star­ing down a very pow­er­fulCat­e­gory 4 ty­phoon that is caus­ing ex­ten­sive dam­age. The high winds, heavy rains, and storm surge will cost bil­lions of dol­lars.

We know that cli­mate change is mak­ing these storms stronger. The storms feed off of warm ocean wa­ters, and those wa­ters are much warmer now be­cause of cli­mate change. I have writ­ten about the sci­ence in more de­tail here and here. But ba­si­cally, Michael strength­ened be­cause it passed over re­ally warm wa­ters. Wa­ters that were hot­ter be­cause of hu­man-caused warm­ing.

Pre­dictably, the hur­ri­cane strength­ened as it hit shore. As I write this, Michael is com­ing ashore and the pres­sure is still fall­ing (low pres­sures in a hur­ri­cane sig­nify a stronger storm). It ap­pears that Michael may have the third­low­est pres­sure for a hur­ri­cane hit­ting the USA.

It is a won­der that a state like Flor­ida, which will get pum­meled by Michael, could vote for some­one that de­nies cli­mate change. Think of how back­wards the sit­u­a­tion is – the Flor­ida De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion has re­port­edly been banned from us­ing the terms “cli­mate change” and “global warm­ing”. This pol­icy re­port­edly went into ef­fect when Flor­ida elected a sci­ence de­nier, Rick Scott, to gov­er­nor.

Rick Scott has been con­demned by peo­ple in Flor­ida for his back­ward stance. It is cli­mate de­nial like his that has con­trib­uted to the suf­fer­ing of res­i­dents in the state.

It’s not that my col­leagues haven’t tried to help Gov­er­nor Scott un­der­stand how his poli­cies hurt his state. A few years ago, sci­en­tists met with him and urged him to take cli­mate change se­ri­ously. He re­mained si­lent.

It isn’t that the lo­cal me­dia hasn’t tried. Ma­jor news­pa­pers have called upon Rick Scott to take ac­tion on cli­mate change. But to lit­tle avail. Maybe it’s be­cause Rick Scott in­vests in com­pa­nies that op­pose cli­mate change reg­u­la­tions?

It isn’t that his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents haven’t tried. Re­cently, Flor­ida Democrats pe­ti­tioned Rick Scott to ac­knowl­edge cli­mate change.

For­tu­nately, while Rick Scott is now run­ning for Se­nate, he’s be­ing chal­lenged by Demo­crat Bill Nel­son. He un­der­stands sci­ence and be­lieves in facts. Nel­son writes,

Rick Scott isn’t the only politi­cian from the state of Flor­ida to re­ject sci­ence and di­min­ish cli­mate change. Sen­a­tor Marco Rubio has as well.

Flor­ida vot­ers could put an end to this non­sense. In the cur­rent race for state Gov­er­nor to suc­ceed Scott, Repub­li­can can­di­date Ron DeSan­tis is ig­nor­ing sci­ence. He re­cently claimed that cli­mate change is not an is­sue for states to mit­i­gate. Say what?

Let’s hope Ron DeSan­tis loses. His op­po­nent is An­drew Gil­lum, who is clear as day when he says,

But it’s not just Flor­ida; there are other states get­ting hit by Hur­ri­cane Michael that are also led by cli­mate de­niers. For in­stance, Ge­or­gia will be hit by Hur­ri­cane Michael. One of the se­na­tors there, David Per­due, con­grat­u­lated Pres­i­dent Trump when he pulled out of the Paris Cli­mate Ac­cord. Ge­or­gia’s other Sen­a­tor, Johnny Isak­son also de­nies the sci­ence. He too sup­ported Pres­i­dent Trump’s reckless ac­tions.

At the con­gres­sional district level, the de­nial con­tin­ues. Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Barry Lou­d­er­milk was pleased when Pres­i­dent Trump walked away from the Paris Agree­ment. His op­po­nent, Flynn Broady trusts and un­der­stands sci­ence, how­ever. His po­si­tion could not be any clearer as he writes,

Cli­mate de­niers will try to say this ar­ti­cle is glee­ful about a hur­ri­cane. It is not. First of all, this hur­ri­cane and all hur­ri­canes that hit land can cause death and de­struc­tion. I pray that peo­ple heed warn­ings and get out of the way. I hope peo­ple stay safe, re­gard­less of their un­der­stand­ing of cli­mate change and its ef­fect on storms.

Sec­ond, elec­tions have con­se­quences and if we as a so­ci­ety want to cre­ate a bet­ter world and re­duce cli­mate change, we have to vote for peo­ple who un­der­stand sci­ence, who be­lieve in facts. Cli­mate de­niers are mak­ing these storms worse by stop­ping

ac­tion on cli­mate change. What the hell do we ex­pect to hap­pen when the de­niers are writ­ing the laws?

Third, for those who say “tak­ing ac­tion on cli­mate is too ex­pen­sive”, how about you add up the world­wide costs of cli­mate in­ac­tion over the past decade. My re­sponse to you is, it’s too costly to do noth­ing.

Fourth, what the hell hap­pened to the Repub­li­can Party? The GOP for­merly thought of it­self as the party of in­tel­lec­tu­als. How did you be­come a party where deny­ing sci­ence is a lit­mus test? Where are the Repub­li­cans who ac­tu­ally un­der­stand cli­mate change and care about it? If you can find one, tell me. Maybe I’ll even write about them on this site.

Fi­nally, cli­mate change is only start­ing. It will con­tinue to get worse and worse. And that means storms will get worse, droughts will get deeper, flood­ing more se­vere, and the costs will go up. What we are see­ing now and what we’ve seen over the past decade is just a small taste to come of what the fu­ture will bring if we don’t take this prob­lem se­ri­ously.

Good luck Flor­ida and Ge­or­gia. My thoughts are with you. See you on the other side.

Pho­to­graph: Mark Wall­heiser/Getty Im­ages

An Amer­i­can flag bat­tered by Hur­ri­cane Michael con­tin­ues to fly in the in the pur­ple col­ored light of sun­set at Shell Point Beach on Oc­to­ber 10, 2018 in Craw­fordville, Flor­ida.

Il­lus­tra­tion: NASA EOSDIS/LANCE

Wa­ter ocean tem­per­a­tures around Flor­ida as Hur­ri­cane Michael evolved.

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