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PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Hurricane Harvey

August 25, 2017

" As millions brace for the potentially devastating impact from Harvey, stories are being written tying Harvey to man-made climate change." - Bette Grande


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL (August 25, 2017) – Hurricane Harvey is scheduled to make landfall in Texas on Friday evening. If the storm comes ashore as a Category 3 hurricane, it will break the ongoing record for most time without a major hurricane making landfall in the United States: 11 years and eight months. The most recent Category 3 or stronger hurricane to make landfall in America was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.

The thoughts and prayers of staffers at The Heartland Institute are with all those whose lives and property are endangered by Hurricane Harvey.

The following statements from climate and environment experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Media Specialist Billy Aouste at and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 847/445-7554.

“As hurricane Harvey approaches Texas, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in its path. It is hard to believe that it has been nearly 12 years since Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and Wilma ripped through Florida late in 2005. In the coming days, our focus should be on the souls affected by this storm. Regardless of the storm’s strength at landfall, the wind, rain, and storm surge will likely cause significant damage and pose a serious risk to public safety.

“Unfortunately, the climate-change cabal lives by Rahm Emanuel’s philosophy to ‘never let a crisis go to waste.’ As millions brace for the potentially devastating impact from Harvey, stories are being written tying Harvey to man-made climate change. In the Bizarro world of the climate-change cultists – though it has been nearly 12 years since a major hurricane has hit the United States – Harvey will be creatively spun to ‘prove’ there are dire effects linked to man-created climate change, a theory that is not proven by the available science.

“In 2006, an analysis by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found global warming accounted for half of the ‘extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005.’ Kevin Trenberth, an author of the NCAR analysis, said. ‘The global warming influence provides a new background level that increases the risk of future enhancements in hurricane activity.’ This quote came at the beginning of what became the longest period without a hurricane hitting the coast of the United States in recorded history.

“Facts do not get in the way of climate-change alarmism, and we will continue to fight for the truth in the months and years to come. But this weekend, our focus and our prayers will be with the people of Texas.”

Bette Grande
Research Fellow, Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute

Ms. Grande represented the 41st District in the North Dakota Legislature from 1996 to 2014.

“It is important to understand hurricanes are one of a number of natural heat-redistributive mechanisms the atmosphere uses to prevent temperature levels from increasing beyond a certain point in areas with access to substantial amounts of water or water vapor. Hurricanes, like the other mechanisms, cannot usefully be modeled, even with the largest and most sophisticated climate models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“But in terms of controlling excessive heat, which is the climate alarmists’ primary concern, all these mechanisms are very important and useful in controlling precisely what the climate alarmists claim they are concerned about. So, it is odd alarmists are concerned about one of Earth’s self-regulatory heat mechanisms that actually work to do what they say they want, unlike their astronomically expensive and useless reductions of carbon-dioxide emissions.” 

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Alan Carlin
Environmental Economist, Scientist (ret.), Environmental Protection Agency
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

“Media hype will exceed the extent of damage from the storm. It always does. The media loves to report ‘the sky is falling.’ It gets ratings, sells papers, and increases web traffic. Harvey is a powerful hurricane. Its storm surge and wind will inflict extensive damage and flooding. Hurricanes always do. All of that is news.

“I covered a dozen hurricanes for ABC. The network news producers always wanted me to shout ‘the sky is falling’ and get rain soaked, windblown, and washed away on live television. Nothing has changed about the media or the hurricanes. And, this has nothing to do with the ‘Algorian’ climate-change frenzy. Hurricanes are nature’s way of saying it was a hot summer. The water got really warm, and the Earth is still spinning. Thank goodness for that.”

John Coleman
Founder, The Weather Channel
Policy Advisor, Environment
The Heartland Institute

“As powerful Hurricane Harvey hits Texas and the Gulf states, with massive destruction probable, alarmists are already starting to murmur about how the storm is linked to what used to be called ‘global warming’ but is now ‘climate change.’ Of course, the change in messaging is a result of the numerous satellite and weather balloon data that have shown there’s been very little warming for two decades. The claim of human-induced climate change caused by carbon-dioxide emissions is simply not something that has been proven by the available science.

“We have always had extreme climate and weather. Let’s just start with the Pleistocene Epoch Ice Age that lasted almost two million years, ended only 11,700 years ago, and covered 32 percent of the world’s landmass in snow and ice. You could also look at the devastation caused by the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Or one could consider the successive hurricanes that crossed Bermuda in a single week in the 18th century. Or the 100-year drought that drove the Anasazi out of cliff dwellings to become the Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande. Or one could look at the great and still unmatched Mississippi River flood of 1927, which impacted the lives of 630,000 people in nine states and caused immeasurable harm.

“Those are historical facts that indisputable show the dynamism of Earth and its climate. The past will always be prologue, and we will always have hurricanes. We also will always need abundant and affordable energy, which does not cause ‘climate change,’ for the continued survival and advancement of humankind.”

Fred Palmer
Senior Fellow, Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute

“The way they estimate wind speeds in a hurricane when it is forming over the ocean is by flying at altitude and recording wind speed. They then put this in a computer model that gives researchers a surface wind speed from which the category number is assigned. The obsession at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was in getting as high a wind speed as possible to feed the media, which seek sensational events. Both NOAA and the media want people to think what is going on now is excessive, abnormal, and due to human-caused global warming.

“This was the situation when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, and many alarmists were delighted when they finally recorded one reading that made it a Category 5 hurricane. But once it came ashore and actual speeds were measured, it barely made Category 3. The problem in New Orleans was the failure to repair and maintain adequate levees, and most of the loss of lives, as with Galveston in 1900, was from flooding and drowning. Of course, one solution is to not allow people to live in naturally hazardous areas. Some think they should be allowed to live there if they accept responsibility. The trouble with that, as I saw from direct involvement with flooding on the Red River in Manitoba, is that the minute the flooding occurs, residents demand action from the government. This plays on the natural willingness to help a fellow citizen, a very commendable trait in most Americans.

“Hurricanes are normal events. What is happening today is well within any natural variability based on the limited records of these events. The deception that anthropogenic global warming has anything to do with Hurricane Harvey was formulated to serve a political agenda.”

Timothy Ball
Former Climatology Professor, University of Winnipeg
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

“The United States has been fortunate to be free of landfalls of large hurricanes for a record period. As that record comes to an end because of natural processes, let’s hope the people of Texas and other affected states weather the storm with the least possible amount of damage to people and property.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Publications
The Heartland Institute

“The previous no-major-hurricane record was nine years – set from 1860 to 1869, almost 150 years ago! This century’s nearly 12-year absence of a major hurricane making landfall is completely contrary to what Al Gore and his entourage of ‘dangerous manmade climate change’ alarmists and profit seekers have been saying for decades – unless, of course, we slash our use of fossil fuels, which make our living standards and public safety possible.

“I would never suggest that this record lull is due to more plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere – even though that would track perfectly with the way alarmists always blame extreme weather events on rising carbon-dioxide levels. But I certainly am saying it should now be obvious that what drives our climate and weather are solar, cosmic ray, oceanic, and other powerful natural forces over which we humans have no control.

“That said, even if Harvey does not become a Category 3 or higher hurricane, it will bring life-threatening rains and floods, major storm surges, floating debris, power outages, contaminated water, and other dangers. People in its path should be especially careful. The rest of us should pray for their safety, and hope Harvey does not build in intensity or linger for days over Texas and Louisiana.”

Paul Driessen
Senior Policy Advisor
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Policy Advisor, Energy and Environment Policy
The Heartland Institute

“One of the few cases where media hype serves a public service is the case of hurricanes. People in harm’s way must take such a real deadly threat seriously, which they might otherwise have trouble recognizing against the diet of fantasy threats we are endlessly fed. It is better to overstate and save lives in this case. This was true long before climate change was a concern, and it will be true long afterward.

“Based on recent history, the subject of climate will likely arise. Making climate change a part of public messaging is a shameless exploitation of people who are suffering, and suggesting to them that government could have prevented a primal phenomenon of tropical meteorology that is well-known to have very limited predictability on the short term, and not well-understood on the long term either, is disingenuous and irresponsible, at the very least.”

Christopher Essex
Professor, Department of Applied Mathematics
University of Western Ontario
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

“Neither the major hurricane drought nor the seven major hurricane landfalls in 2004 and 2005 tell us anything about whether significant global warming will or will not result from humans’ use of fossil fuels. Pointing to extreme weather when it occurs today as ‘proof’ human-caused climate change is occurring is dubious, and the willingness to offer this canard creates serious credibility problems for any proponents of drastic action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Exaggerations and deliberate scare stories hinder the ability for sincere people to have an honest discussion of what, if anything, can be done about global warming. Global warming might or might not eventually strengthen hurricanes.

“I certainly hope residents in Texas and other at-risk areas heed officials’ warnings so that the loss of life can be avoided.

“One important lesson offered by Harvey is the folly of subsidizing flood insurance. Subsidized insurance increases the number of people living in areas vulnerable to life-threatening storm surges and flooding, placing lives at risk and imperiling taxpayers.”

Daniel Sutter
Professor of Economics, Troy University
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

“Global warming did not lead to a major hurricane hitting Texas in 2016. Global warming also did not cause any hurricanes to hit Texas in 2015. Global warming played the same trick in 2014. And in 2013. And 2012. And 2011. And 2010. And 2009. The most recent time global warming supposedly caused a storm of any strength to hit Texas was 1999.

“Yet, despite these indisputable facts, alarmists will say global warming has caused a hurricane to hit Texas. From these scientific data, it is clear global warming is fickle and can’t be trusted.”

William Briggs
Statistical Consultant
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

“Hurricane Harvey will be remembered for more than breaking the record hurricane drought if it makes landfall as a Category 3 storm, as forecast. It will produce rainfall amounts that will rank near the top of the wettest tropical storms in recent history, as it’s projected to meander for five days through Texas. The wettest was Hurricane Ameila in 1978, which brought a peak local rainfall of 48 inches.

“Hurricanes that enter Texas often stall or meander and are very wet, which is why half the top 10 wettest U.S. tropical rainfall events were in Texas.In addition to causing damage resulting from storm surge and flooding, these slow-moving storms can spawn numerous tornadoes, as Beulah did in 1968. That storm produced a record number of observed tornadoes, 115, when it rotated into South Texas. They tend to be weaker tornadoes than we find in severe weather outbreaks, and it is sometimes hard to see much difference with damage already occuring with storm wind gusts. 

“Relative to the total damage from the storm, they were a relatively minor contributor, but importantly, they did cause fatalities: Thirteen persons died, and 37 others were injured as a result of hurricane Beulah. Five of these deaths (38 percent) and 34 of the injuries (92 percent) were caused by tornadoes. Total property damage resulting from tornadoes was estimated at 2 percent of the total property damage caused by the hurricane.”

Joseph D’Aleo
Executive Director,
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

“Environmental activists will likely point to Hurricane Harvey as yet another harbinger of more-extreme weather events to come due to global warming, which alarmists say is caused by human activity. But global warming appears to actually reduce tropical cyclones over all time frames.

“Historical data show weather has usually been more extreme during colder periods. Chinese scientists Kam-Biu Liu and D.D. Fan (Chinese Science Bulletin 53: 2907-2922, 2008) report ‘typhoon frequency seemed to have increased at least regionally during the coldest phases of the Little Ice Age.’ And it was during the recent global cooling period, from 1945 to 1977, that Hurricane Camille slammed Mississippi’s coastal areas, leaving 256 dead. In fact, 12 tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic reached hurricane intensity in 1969, far above normal. The next year, a Bay of Bengal tropical cyclone killed about 250,000 people, the most ever in a single weather-related disaster.

“Rather than vainly trying to stop tropical cyclones from occurring, we need to better prepare for them. Contrast 6,329 dead when Typhoon Haiyan hit an unprepared Philippines in 2013 with zero dead when a similar storm struck Australia in 2011, a country which has proper storm shelters.”

Tom Harris
Executive Director, International Climate Science Coalition
Policy Advisor, Energy and Environment
The Heartland Institute

Bette Grande is a State Government Relations Manager at The Heartland Institute. Prior to coming to Heartland, she served as a North Dakota state representative from 1996–2014, representing the 41st district. @BetteGrande
Dr. Carlin, now retired, was a 37-year career environmental economist and scientist at EPA when, in June 2009, the Competitive Enterprise Institute broke the story of his negative 100-page report reviewing the agency’s draft Endangerment Finding.
John Coleman founded The Weather Channel and was the original weathercaster on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with David Hartman and Joan Lunden. He retired in 2014 after more than 60 years in broadcasting. Coleman passed away on January 20, 2018.
Frederick D. Palmer is a policy advisor for energy and climate at The Heartland Institute.
Dr. Timothy Ball is a renowned environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
S. T. Karnick is a senior fellow and director of publications for The Heartland Institute.
Paul Driessen is a senior policy advisor with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.
Daniel Sutter is Affiliated Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center and Professor of Economics at the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.
William M. ‘Matt’ Briggs is a policy advisor at The Heartland Institute. @mattstat
Joseph S. D’Aleo is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin BS, MS and did his doctoral studies at NYU. He is a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. @weatherbell
Tom Harris is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition @TomHarrisICSC

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