The intensity of Hurricane Harvey has almost certainly been worsened by human-made climate changeby Philip Ball / August 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
A word of advice: if you want to deny facts about nature, make them ones that don’t affect our everyday lives. For as Richard Feynman famously quipped (in the context of the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986), “Nature cannot be fooled.” It’ll be less embarrassing to have claimed that our planet is just 6,000 years old than to have denied global warming when faced with Houston’s elevated freeways being lapped by waves that have claimed lives and wrought billions of dollars’ worth of destruction.
If you do want to get biblical, the floods in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey are the place to look. The images are surreal—like something out of JG Ballard’s 1962 novel The Drowned World, showing us once again that the British writer was not imagining but predicting the future.
Whether Donald Trump will parrot the usual climate denier’s line that global warming can say nothing about individual extreme-weather events remains to be seen. It seems unwise to consider any breach of decency, tact or regard for fact to be beyond the US president. Certainly, his bragging tweets about his electoral victories in Missouri while Houston drowned, or his comments about the size of the “turnout” when he spoke in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday confirmed his sociopathic blindness to public sensibilities, or to basic compassion. But perhaps even he will sense that, purely for the sake of public-opinion ratings, this is not the moment for more dismissal of scientific evidence.
Yes, it’s true that Hurricane Harvey, which over the weekend dumped more rain over the Houston area than has ever been recorded there before, was not caused by global warming. The east coast of the southern US has always been prey to catastrophic tropical cyclones sweeping in from the Atlantic. But the intensity of this storm—a hurricane this big is expected only once every 500 years or so on the basis of past events—seems almost certainly to have been worsened by the warming of the sea surface due to human activity.
“Hurricane Harvey dumped more rain over the Houston area than has ever been recorded there before”