After the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, Donald Trump tweeted, “experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” And, in an alternate universe, he would be right. This flood would be a flood that happens once every 500 years. It would be the type of flood that people would be shocked to see, and that climate scientists would be shocked by. Hurricane Harvey would create flooding that would seem astounding, of biblical proportions. The type of flood that people would see and think: “Wow, who would have thought? Who could have guessed?”
(Just to give you some raw numbers, according to the New York Times, Hurricane Harvey has dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston and southeast Texas [a record in the continental United States], 25 to 30 percent of Harrison County has been flooded, the Houston PD has rescued more than 3,500 people from their homes, and there have been at least 30 deaths related to flooding.)
But alas, this isn’t the world we live in. The world we live in is one where climate change is a known mechanism. In past articles I’ve written for The Mirror, it sometimes seems as if I’ve been a broken record. I’ve talked about how climate change was hardly discussed during the election how Donald Trump has been a serious thorn in the side of climate change scientists and I’ve even discussed how the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology has been intimidating scientists into silence (The last issue of which Donald Trump’s administration has exacerbated, putting a gag order on all government scientists). I stand by all of that, despite maybe sounding like I’m beating a dead horse. Acknowledging that climate change is a real threat is the first step to preventing it — as much as possible — and protecting ourselves against it.
For years, climate scientists have been warning us of the dangers of climate change. In fact, last September the Academy wrote an open letter where they stated: “Human-caused climate change is not a belief, a hoax or a conspiracy. . . Human-caused climate change is not something far removed from our day-to-day experience, affecting only the remote Arctic. It is present here and now, in our own country, in our own states and in our own communities.” This was, of course, ignored by Trump and his advisers, harming all citizens of the world.
Even the Environmental Protection Agency — which I realize is now being headed by an oil baron who sued the agency numerous times — has a page on its website warning about the connection between erratic weather and climate change.
“In recent years, a higher percentage of precipitation in the United States has come in the form of intense single-day events,” it is written on the website. “The occurrence of abnormally high annual precipitation totals (as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has also increased.”
This is just one example of how climate change affects the weather, but it’s also written on the site that “rising global average temperature is associated with widespread changes in weather patterns.”
And now, when climate change has reared its grotesque head, Donald Trump has turned the other cheek. He’s gone, in the parlance of Katy Perry, from hot to cold, yes to no. Now he believes what climate experts have been saying for years. The man who said that climate change was a Chinese hoax meant to slow down U.S. business, the man who put out a gag order on federal scientists, has finally admitted that maybe, possibly, scientists know what they’re talking about.
But, to the clown in Washington D.C., I say this: It’s too late.
You didn’t create climate change, but your irresponsible rhetoric has exacerbated the problem. Hurricane Harvey is one of the worst hurricanes we’ve seen thus far in the United States, but it won’t be the last hurricane of massive magnitudes. Not even close. There are more environmental catastrophes on the horizon, not so far away, and they’ll be even worse than this.
Drew Heiderscheidt is the Opinion Editor for The Mirror. He is a senior with majors in history, and environmental and sustainability studies.