A warmer planet threatens wetter storms, higher surges and more Harveys.
Hurricanes typically weaken before they make landfall. Not Harvey.
The historic storm actually grew stronger in the immediate 24 hours before it made landfall in Texas, the bathtub-warm water acting like a perfect fuel for Harvey’s fury.
For decades, scientists have warned the man-made climate change could bring bizarre and unprecedented events. Harvey probably belongs on that list.
If Houston is going to be serious about keeping our city safe from Mother Nature, then we have to make global warming part of the discussion.
It will be a tough conversation. Even in the 21st century, the oil and gas industry still serves as our core economic engine. They’ve brought untold wealth and prosperity, but at the end of the day their product is responsible for carbon emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere.
A warming planet means wetter storms, higher storm surges and more intense hurricanes, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
Insurance companies have collected the data to back that up. The number of storms, floods, extreme temperature events and other destructive natural disasters more than tripled between 1980 and 2016, according to The Economist.
The whole world has started to notice. No longer is climate change the exclusive realm of environmentalists and academics.
The oil and gas industry has stopped denying the reality of global warming. During the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual State of Energy meeting in June, Lamar McKay, deputy group chief executive at BP, called for transitioning to a lower carbon energy mix.
Petroleum leaders from around the globe spoke during CERAWeek at the George R. Brown Convention Center about shrinking carbon footprints and growing clean energy output.
Even the U.S. military is pushing forward on plans to harden naval bases against sea-level rise and prepare Arctic outposts for melting permafrost.
Across the board, industry and commerce is preparing for potential changes to our planet’s climate — and the inevitable economic disruption when nations turn away from fossil fuels.
The only people who refuse to confront these undeniable shifts are the politicians who would rather shut their eyes and stuff waterlogged muck in their ears.
Our records on weather are limited, and we’ve only been tracking storms by satellite since the 1960s. Ties between global warming and individual events can be tenuous. Proper responses to worldwide phenomena will require complex questions about public policy.
But we can’t start down that hard road until we’re willing to talk about climate change openly, honestly and with up-to-date information. This means funding the NASA climate science missions — the current White House budget calls for them to be eliminated. The EPA must resurrect climate change information that has been removed from its websites. FEMA flood maps have to be redrawn to account for changing weather. And the United States should once again join the Paris climate accords.
Harvey was unlike any storm we’ve seen before. The fear is that a warming planet will just make it the first of many.