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White House: Too Early to Tell if Climate Change Fueled Storms

Critics fear that President Trump will use Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to advance his economic agenda. (Associated Press)

Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser to President Trump, said Monday that it is too soon to tell if the recent deadly storms were created or fueled by climate change, and that a “trend analysis at a later date” is needed to better examine data. CNN says:

“Causality is something outside of my ability to analyze right now,” Bossert said in response to a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta.
He said that hurricane seasons were “cyclical,” and noted that scientists had accurately predicted this year would bring larger [than] average storms.

Bossert’s statement followed remarks made by Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency and a climate change skeptic, who said it is “insensitive” to discuss climate change instead of focusing on the current effects of the storms. He was challenged by many, including Tomas Regaldo, the Republican mayor of Miami, who told the Miami Herald, “This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change. … If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”

Writes The New York Times:

For scientists, drawing links between warming global temperatures and the ferocity of hurricanes is about as controversial as talking about geology after an earthquake. But in Washington, where science is increasingly political, the fact that oceans and atmosphere are warming and that the heat is propelling storms into superstorms has become as sensitive as talking about gun control in the wake of a mass shooting. …

It’s unclear whether experiencing powerful storms will change minds. A 2015 study published in the journal Climatic Change found Americans experiencing extreme weather events are not necessarily more concerned about climate change. Last week E&E News interviewed several Republican lawmakers whose constituents were hit by Hurricane Harvey and most said they had not considered the issue of climate change.

Bossert also says the Trump administration is “making sure that federal dollars aren’t used to rebuild things that will be in harm’s way later, or that won’t be hardened against the future predictable floods that we see.” However, this comes after the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era protections designed to help infrastructure projects survive devastating floods only weeks before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The regulations were part of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard established under President Obama in 2015.

While experts have pointed out overwhelming evidence that the storms were worsened by climate change, The Intercept published an Op-Ed piece by Naomi Klein claiming that Republicans who deny climate change are unlikely to be convinced by the destructiveness of the storms and that the Trump administration is likely to exploit the nation’s focus on the devastation to push through the president’s “reckless economic agenda”:

Flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, [Trump] explained that they were going to discuss “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.”

Some have pointed out that this is a classic example of what I have called the “shock doctrine” — using disasters as cover to push through radical, pro-corporate policies. And it is a textbook case to be sure, especially because when Trump made his remarks, Irma was at the very height of its potential threat.

But Trump’s timing is even more revealing for what it shows about what’s really driving climate change denial on the right. It’s not a rejection of the science, but a rejection of the consequences of the science. Put simply, if the science is true, then the whole economic project that has dominated American power structures since Ronald Reagan was president is out the window, and the deniers know it.

Klein urges her readers not to wait for climate change deniers to “wake up,” insisting that the conditions that allow them to deny climate change are too appealing and profitable for them to change. She says that in the wake of the hurricanes Americans should be vigilant in watching what economic policies President Trump tries to push through.

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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