“It’s just one after another” this hurricane season, President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
Although Trump has denied the science linking hurricanes to climate change, he was unwittingly pointing out one of the most serious consequences of his policies to kill climate action: The rise of simultaneous “unnatural” disasters.
“As climate change continues, by any reasonable expectation we will see more storms like Harvey and Irma and the chances for these to occur simultaneously also will increase,” Dr. Greg Holland, a leading U.S. expert on the connection between hurricanes and climate change, warned last week.
The country is going to face more and more scenarios where we have to simultaneously deal with devastation in Texas, Florida, and islands in the Caribbean — as well as the East Coast. A 2013 NOAA study found that under the business-as-usual CO2 emissions scenario, by mid-century the Jersey shore could see yearly Sandy-level storm surges from Atlantic City to Cape May.
And that’s just the coastal storms. Last week, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported an astounding two million acres of land were ablaze in the West, as the country suffers one of its worst wildfire seasons ever.
“This one in particular has been a longer season,” NIFC’s Chris Wilcox told NPR. “It really hasn’t stopped since the fall of 2016.”
The science explaining how climate change drives worse wildfires and longer wildfire seasons has been well documented, and this summer record-smashing heat waves created ideal conditions for wildfires.
As the planet continues its human-caused global warming, scientists tell us we will see more super-hurricanes and more massive wildfires — along with more extreme heat waves, extreme droughts, and Dust-Bowlification. That means more simultaneous record-smashing disasters, and they won’t just be happening in the United States. They’ll be happening all around the world at the same time, meaning more and more countries will be focused on dealing with their own catastrophic impacts from climate change, and less willing and able to help other countries when they get hit by a warming-fueled disaster.
Worse, Trump’s efforts to undermine domestic and global climate action mean that worst-case scenarios become more likely, with more off-the-charts disasters and more simultaneous disasters.
Trump himself tweeted that Harvey caused “historic rainfall” and “unprecedented” flooding.
HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
And after Irma rapidly intensified to a Category 5 superstorm Trump tweeted “Hurricane looks like the largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!” Irma smashed the record for the “longest sustained 185-mph winds” — not just in the Atlantic but anywhere in the world.
But Trump changed his story last week when a reporter asked at a press gaggle on Air Force One, “Mr. President, the severity of these storms — the one in Florida, the one in Texas — has that made you rethink your views of climate change?”
It seems the only thing that can curb Trump’s propensity for touting everything as the “biggest” is his unwillingness to concede that climate change is occurring.
Trump, who was returning to D.C. after seeing Hurricane Irma’s impact on Florida, changed his tune, falsely claiming, “Well, we’ve had bigger storms than this.” He elaborated, “So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms. But if you go back into the ‘30s and ‘40s, and you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, okay?”
Nope and nope. We had a bigger storm than Irma just five years ago. It was named Sandy, and it was the largest hurricane — in terms of diameter — ever recorded in the Atlantic. Irma had the highest, most prolonged wind speeds. The highest cumulative energy (accumulated cyclonic energy) for a single storm was Hurricane Ioke in 2006.
And as for whether or not we had “very similar” storms a century ago, an analysis last week shows that Harvey was in reality an unimaginable never-before-seen once-in-25,000 year storm.
With Maria, Trump was back in superlative mode, saying yesterday as the storm devastated Puerto Rico, “I’ve never seen winds like this.”
Somehow Trump simultaneously believes these are — and are not — the biggest storms we ever seen. No wonder Politico reported that “Trump administration officials huddled at the White House on Wednesday” to develop “a game plan for communicating its position on climate change.”
Politico noted, “Officials also discussed how to combat the public perception that the administration is out of touch with climate science, sources said.” Where could the public get such a perception? Probably just by listening to the president.