Climate scientists have suggested in various media outlets that climate change contributed to storms like Harvey, which slammed southeastern portions of Texas and is directly responsible for 22 deaths. EPA officials argue the agency has more immediate concerns than whether or not climate change worsened a massive tropical storm during hurricane season.
“EPA is focused on the safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey and providing emergency response support — not engaging in attempts to politicize an ongoing tragedy,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told reporters when responding to suggestions that global warming is partially responsible for the flooding.
Academics argue that places like Houston and parts of Louisiana should expect more flooding as temperature levels increase. Many scientists made similar arguments when California and other western states haggled with debilitating droughts.
“There is universal agreement” that climate change will increase rainfall during hurricanes, Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told reporters. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico strengthened Harvey, which arrived in Texas Aug. 26 and hovered around the state for nearly three days.
Media outlets have made similar notes, with some suggesting that society should be politicizing the hurricane.
“In the coming weeks and months, environmentalists, scientists, and their elected Democratic allies will politicize the storm,” The Washington Post’s Dino Grandoni wrote Tuesday, referring to the chorus of activists linking President Donald Trump’s climate policies to the storm.
“And why not?” Grandoni added. “After all, politics is, according to one classic definition, ‘who gets what, when, and how.’”
Recent research shows that climate change has neither worsened nor caused an uptick in hurricanes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for instance, noted earlier this year that there are “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found something similar in March 2017, noting that it’s “premature to conclude that human activities — and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming — have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.”
Climate scientist Judith Curry also roundly criticized her counterparts for drawing connections between global warming and hurricanes.
“While there was a large amount of water vapor ingested into Harvey, the huge amounts of rain are associated with Harvey’s stalled movement, while still close enough to the Gulf to continue to suck in moisture,” she wrote on her blog shortly Harvey’s arrival.
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