Now is absolutely the time to politicize Hurricane Irma and other natural disasters

"Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed levees and exploded the conventional wisdom about a shared American prosperity, exposing a group of people so poor they didn't have $50 for a bus ticket out of town. If we want to learn something from this disaster, the lesson ought to be: America's poor deserve better than this." -Michael Eric Dyson

Hurricane Irma has, as of this morning, knocked out power to more than 6 million, caused the evacuation of millions more, and has caused flooding and extreme wind damage across hundreds of miles across Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. When Irma first made landfall in the Florida Keys, it set a new 'first' for 2017: two Category 4 (or stronger) hurricanes made landfall in the USA in the same year for the first time.

Trees are seen blown over in a parking lot as hurricane Irma moves through the area of Pembroke Pines, Florida on September 10, 2017. Making landfall as a Category 4 storm, the 2017 season, featuring both Harvey and Irma, is the first in recorded history where two Category 4 (or higher) storms have made landfall in the same year. Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.


This is not simply a bad year or an unlucky coincidence, but is an effect of a planet that has been artificially warmed by human activity. This continues a pattern we've seen globally of more intense but fewer hurricanes in numbers, and 2017 is shaping up to be the most expensive hurricane season in US history. At the same time, wildfires are ravaging the western United States, and no, that's not coincidence, either.

A firefighter is showng drinking water in front of a burning house near Oroville, California in July of 2017. The first major wildfires after the end of California's five-year drought raged across the state as it was gripped by a record-breaking heatwave. Image credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.


We don't have to do this to ourselves; we could craft a science-based policy on climate change to minimize the damage of these disasters in the future. The time to act is now.


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IMHO all big problems of our world/countries have effective solutions. But only if we are willing to make an honest, clear, concise argument/reasoning about each of them, and also if we are willing to act on the results later, even if we don't like them personally.

Yes William, posting information from the non-think Cato Institute, by a guy who is a climate change denier and regular at Watts' site, regardless of his degrees, and not having any context or source for the data, is very convincing. (Not really.)


I absolutely do not think it is time for that discussion. If you haven’t lived through a natural disaster, it is hard to explain. In the modern era after you get evacuated, you just hit refresh after refresh after refresh on Twitter to get any information. You stream the emergency radio chatter for any mention of your street. You pour over every chart published by the authorities to see if your property is still standing and tune in intently on every situation update by anyone. You commiserate with your friends and neighbors over any rumor and what landmarks you’ve always known are now gone. You hope beyond hope the cat you couldn’t find before you had to rush out of your home will be ok. Mostly you feel paralyzed and useless.

Maybe we can beat this into the ground next week but for now my thoughts are for those affected.

This is not the time to politicize anything, unless you wish to look silly and opportunistic. Throwing more money at government scientists will not alter the weather, no matter how much they might like you to think so.
Learn some hurricane history. Ever heard of Galveston 1900?, or more recently try 1933, Irma was not as bad, and not as close to Harvey as has already been historically recorded between hurricanes.
That said,
If you build up high density human habitation in low lying wetlands surrounded by the sea, you are taking your chances. Living right off the ocean a few feet above sea level is an epic fail, and should not be insurable. Ask any geologist what happens when people foolishly build where they shouldn't, This also applies to 50 year flood planes and unstable cliffs.
Bad things happen. They have always happened. It's why we have the words 'Hurricane', 'Typhoon', 'Tsunami', 'Earth Quake', and 'Forest Fire'. Just because someone was apparently born yesterday, does not mean everything is 'worse than ever'.


This is not the time to politicize anything, unless you wish to look silly and opportunistic.

I agree. So I hope you, CFT, and you, Denier, will join me in agreeing that the person who said this was being silly and opportunistic:

"To create prosperity at home, [my cabinet and I will] be discussing our plan for dramatic tax cuts and tax reform. And I think now with what’s happened with the hurricane, I’m gonna ask for a speed-up. I wanted a speed-up any way, but now we need it even more so..."

Can we agree on that?

So here Kevin has made a statistical case, and he used a larger dataset than landfalling US hurricanes, yet he is being attacked by anecdotes -we were hit by a powerful hurricane a hundred years ago, therefore such storms were always possible, therefore today's and tomorrows storms are just the continuation of natural events. But that isn't a valid attack. To fight a statistical argument you need to use statistics, not single events.
BTW some of the most motivated statisticians of catastrophic weather events are the re-insurance companies (insurers of insurance companies), and these guys are convinced that the odds are in fact getting worse.

By Omega Centauri (not verified) on 11 Sep 2017 #permalink

Seriously CFT? You cited Anthony Watts's website?
You really are clueless, aren't you?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 11 Sep 2017 #permalink

@Omega Centauri,
If you pack ever more people into any area, especially risky coastal low lying areas prone to storms, if anything bad happens, more people are affected. Insurance companies are also made up of people who have as many foibles as anyone else.
In a sense, the longer anything is around your statistical odds gets worse. This does not in fact actually mean things are getting worse, only that your exposure to risk over a longer period increases the odds of something happening to you.

Why would you not want to do something that would increase economic prosperity regardless of a hurricane? Wasn't It something Trump was already trying to do? It's also much harder to rebuild anything if you are economically struggling to pay for the repairs. The American economy has not exactly been doing well over the last ten years and many people are struggling.
I get that you don't like President Trump, but he, unlike you isn't blaming the opposing political party for a hurricane, he's just trying to improve the economy.
Can we agree that when you start blaming natural events on people you don't like or disagree with, you aren't being scientific at all, you are delving into the superstitious and supernatural. Burning witches (or CAGW skeptics for that matter) won't do anything to stop hurricanes from killing people who refuse to evacuate.

Wonder how the next big earthquake in California will be politicized.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 11 Sep 2017 #permalink

@eric wrote:

Can we agree on that?

While I didn’t vote for him, I actually don’t have a problem with Trump in his handling of these hurricanes thus far. FEMA and various emergency relief assets were staged around Houston prior to the hurricane hitting to speed the relief effort. Trump assured the Governor of Texas that he’d have everything the Federal Government could provide to recover. Then Trump tossed his own party under the buss and agreed to only a 90-day spending cap increase to keep Congress from playing politics over legislation to help Harvey victims. I couldn’t care less what Trump said on his Twitter.

This site really could use more healthy skepticism.
This article sums up neatly what the problem with politicizing weather is:
It doesn't matter what the weather does, rain, snow, fire, flood, drought, hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, or perhaps even Godzilla, it's all because of :
'Global cooling (scientists say we must act soon to warm the planet, let's seed the ice caps with coal dust),
er, Global warming (scientists say we must act soon to cool the planet, lets sequester carbon by altering the oceans), er, 'CLIMATE CHANGE!!! (oh hell, whatever the climate is doing JUST SEND MONEY!') as long as it's bad.
When the weather is relatively pleasant and we haven't had a serious hurricane in that because of climate change too? Nope. Oh yeah, that's right, there is no way to logically falsify climate change claims by what the climate actually does, because whatever happens (except good weather) is covered by climate change dogma. It's almost like an end of the world cult...but far more expensive.

Wow, so according to you CFT, Ethan is being silly and opportunistic when he uses important weather effects as an entre to discuss climate. But Trump is not being silly and opportunistic when he uses weather effects as an entre to discuss tax breaks. Yeah, there's no bias in your position at all....

Omega Centauri wrote:

To fight a statistical argument you need to use statistics, not single events.

This. This sentiment so perfectly encapsulates why I find politicizing the suffering of people caught up in Irma to be so distasteful and frankly dishonest. Irma is weather. It is not climate. The minimum granularity on climate, per actual Climate Scientists, is 17 years. Irma isn’t a 17 year long hurricane. It is a single weather event that has caused human suffering.

What @Ethan is doing here is to recognize that weather-related suffering and parade it around to further a political agenda related to climate. It is as if he’s saying “Look! There are corpses! Quick hold them up to the cameras. Now is the perfect time to politicize their misfortune! The average person isn’t smart enough to know the difference between weather and climate! Take advantage now before the dead can be buried.”

When talking climate, it is a statistical argument. When talking about the steps that need to be taken to mitigate the damage, Climate Scientists are among the most useless part of the discussion. A category 4 hurricane just plowed into the Florida Keys and the vast majority of buildings are still standing. You can thank the engineers and politicians for enacting building code permit requirements in 1986 that required structures survive Category 3 conditions, then in 1992 upgrading that to Category 4 conditions, and in 2002 increasing the requirements again to withstand 180+ mph Category 5 hurricanes. A lot of thinking from many disparate disciplines goes into forming policy to mitigate disaster. The idea that everyone MUST think like a Climate Scientist is stupid, and the blatant opportunism over the timing is disappointing.

@Eric wrote:

Ethan is being silly and opportunistic when he uses important weather effects as an entre to discuss climate. But Trump is not being silly and opportunistic when he uses weather effects as an entre to discuss tax breaks.

The difference there is that @Ethan knows the difference between weather and climate. I can link to threads where the topic has been discussed whereas I doubt Trump or anyone else knows for sure the economic impact of tax reform will or will not mitigate the economic impact of the weather event. It is not bias to draw a distinction between dishonesty and naivety.

Try Googling Trump and tax reform, he's been talking about it a long time.
Trump was talking tax reform years before he was even running for president.
He was talking about tax reform when he ran for president.
He was talking about tax reform when he became president. Then there were a couple of hurricanes.
President Trump is still talking about tax reform now.
For good or bad, he is actually being incredibly consistent and persistent on the issue of reform.

Ethan might be politically certain, but the science isn't:
NOAA: There is no evidence that there is a human influence on hurricanes.

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab at NOAA on August 30th 2017:

"It is 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. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet confidently modeled (e.g., aerosol effects on regional climate)."

Another reason to NOT politicize Hurricane Irma and other natural disasters:

"Chart of wind and air pressure when IRMA made landfall at Naples. Not even Hurricane Category 1 level winds"

So media hypes as the largest ever to set the narrative, aided by some in the science community and then in the end making landfall in Naple it's not even a hurricane.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 13 Sep 2017 #permalink

Uh, Irma did not F*ing fizzle.
It demolished how many islands before it got to Florida?

By MobiusKlein (not verified) on 13 Sep 2017 #permalink

Ethan, what's the answer? I think since science academics and Hollywood entertainers are the loudest voices, they should lead by example.

Perhaps a 20% of income fund would be a great start. Lead by example and live the mission.
Let's create a verifiable fund where folks who support human climate change initiatives can have their own financial contributions to the cause verified..

That would at least show who is truly down with the cause...

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 13 Sep 2017 #permalink

Oh It fizzled alright, according to FACT, but not according to propaganda preachers.

This politicizing natural disasters is the same as religious cult charlatans like the hale bop comet (heavens gate) canard.

Let's use natural events that are grandiose and people are in a state of gullibility to FORWARD our own agenda.
Plain and Simple..

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 15 Sep 2017 #permalink