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The Shameful Politicization of Hurricanes

November 1, 2018

The devastating effects of Hurricane Florence are still being felt throughout the Carolinas.  Clean-up and recovery will take months, if not years.

The devastating effects of Hurricane Florence are still being felt throughout the Carolinas.  Clean-up and recovery will take months, if not years.

If meteorologists' forecasts that Florence would hit the southeastern United States as a Category 4 storm – with winds topping 140 miles per hour – had been correct, the aftermath would have been even more catastrophic.

Shamefully, the press and climate alarmists began politicizing Florence even before the monumental storm made landfall.  For example, the Washington Post ran an outrageous commentary, "Another hurricane is about to batter our coast. Trump is complicit," the day before Florence struck.  This is just another example of fake news and the left engaging in a gross politicization of misery.

Even as people were fleeing the wrath of Florence and their flooded homes and businesses, dozens of socialist celebrities, politicians, and anti-fossil fuel activists met at a Global Climate Action Summit, held September 13 through 14 in San Francisco.  Absurdly, many took to the stage to blame President Donald Trump for Florence.

The summit was organized by Democratic California governor Jerry Brown, who began planning the event shortly after Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.  Brown enlisted high-profile speakers for the event, including Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Michael Bloomberg, Van Jones, Tom Steyer, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and dozens of government officials from across the globe.  The media and speakers marched in lockstep to promote the false talking point that greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels are causing more powerful hurricanes.  Even more ridiculous, they peddled the notion that because Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, he is "complicit" in making storms worse.

Here are several facts that dispel these myths.

First, although the Atlantic hurricane season is not over yet, thus far, the number of hurricanes occurring this year is below average.  During a typical six-month Atlantic hurricane season, 12 named storms form, six become hurricanes, and three of those become major hurricanes – meaning Category 3 or higher.  This season, 10 named storms have formed in the Atlantic Basin, three of which became hurricanes.  Two other hurricanes briefly became minor storms off the west coast of Africa – and only Florence became a major hurricane.  Furthermore, only one has made landfall in the United States: Florence.

Before the above-average Atlantic hurricane season of 2017, the United States experienced the longest period in recorded history, nine years, without a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) striking the country.  In fact, in a recent Washington Times interview, award-winning meteorologist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama in Huntsville noted that the fact that there has been "a 50-percent decrease in U.S. landfalling major hurricanes over the last 80 years means no one is 'complicit' in these storms."

Second, although Florence produced a record amount of rainfall in the Carolinas, it is only the ninth wettest storm on record, with eight other hurricanes having dumped more rain on the continental United States since the government began keeping records.

Third, no president has caused or contributed to hurricane activity.  It is true that Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, negotiated by the Obama administration, but even in the absence of government regulations limiting energy use, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were declining before Obama signed the agreement.  This decline in carbon dioxide emissions has continued under Trump – even after he withdrew from the Paris agreement.  By contrast, all the major countries remaining in the Paris agreement have experienced greenhouse gas emissions increases and are unlikely to meet their Paris targets.

To be fair, this doesn't mean that other leaders are causing hurricanes, since none of the targeted emissions reductions begins taking effect until 2020.  Consequently, it would have been logically and physically impossible for participation in the Paris agreement to have made any difference in whether or not Florence formed, became a major storm, or made landfall.

Those are the relevant facts, many of which were presented at an event hosted by the Heartland Institute, during lunch breaks in the Climate Action Summit's two-day program.  In contrast to the speakers at the Climate Summit and those writing the anti-Trump editorials at the Washington Post, speakers at Heartland's livestreamed rebuttal event included physicists, meteorologists, and climatologists, who could actually address the physics and history of hurricane formation and impact.  The overtly political Climate Action Summit didn't have a single climate scientist as a speaker.

At Heartland's event, Stanley Goldenberg, a hurricane meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted there has been no long-term change in global hurricane activity.  According to Goldenberg, "[w]e have not seen anything to indicate we're in an unprecedented time of more hurricanes, stronger hurricanes, if you understand how to read the historical record."

Goldenberg also noted that large amounts of rainfall commonly accompany hurricanes, meaning the rainfall amounts Florence dumped were not that unusual.

"We've seen this stuff before.  It doesn't shock us when a storm sits there, meanders, and stalls," Goldenberg said.  "We've seen this many, many, many times.  As someone who has specialized in climate science much of my career, I definitely believe in climate change; the climate is always changing[.] ... I heard one of the speakers [at the Summit] say, 'We must stop climate change,' [but] you can't stop the climate from changing."

The politicization of climate science, as the left has so successfully done, undermines real science.  The sad fact is, the mainstream media are complicit in the ongoing, widespread politicization of science, a true disservice to the American people.  Hurricanes are a fact of life and entirely natural (not man-made) events.  Contrary to climate alarmists' claims, there is nothing any human can do to alter the occurrence of these destructive storms.

[Originally Published at American Thinker]

Article Tags
Environment
Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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