Climate Alarmists Exploit Hurricane Harvey to Score Political Points

By Myron Ebell

Global warming alarmists exploit every weather disaster, and so it is no surprise that they are out in full force for Hurricane Harvey. Joe Romm summarizes the arguments being made at Think Progress.

For once, most alarmists are not claiming that global warming (or climate change or climate disruption) caused Harvey. It’s been 12 years since a major (category three or higher) hurricane—Katrina—made landfall in the United States. If warming caused Harvey, then it must also have caused the long period of low hurricane activity—which is an inconvenient conclusion.

Harvey is a very large hurricane as well as a strong one. What makes it different from most other huge storms of recent memory is that once it hit Houston, it didn’t move. Thus, the torrential rains that hurricanes always bring have been concentrated in a small area.

Climate alarmists have been quick to claim that storms that stall is just what they’ve been predicting. Romm quotes one alarmist: “The kind of stalled weather pattern that is drenching Houston is precisely the sort of pattern we expect because of climate change.” Romm then goes on to cite several studies that predict warming in the Arctic will weaken the jet stream in the summer, which means that severe weather events are more likely to move slowly or stall. Hence, Harvey.

There are at least two problems with this claim. The first was summarized by climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. (in a private e-mail): “The polar jet stream is always much weaker in the summer. Stalled tropical cyclones always have been a threat.” Dr. Pielke gives as an example Hurricane Flora in 1963. Flora stalled over Haiti and then Cuba. It dumped 57 inches of rain on Miragoane in Haiti in three days. It also killed over 7,000 people.

The second problem is that the alarmist literature contains studies that predict every possible disaster as a result of climate change. Whatever happens, the alarmists now have a peer- (or at least pal-) reviewed article waiting to be trotted out. If frogs fall from the sky in Kansas next month, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Washington Post’s Chris Mooney finds a climate model that warned us about the possibility of falling frogs—and of course, we didn’t listen.

Many in Congress and the mainstream media are going to use the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey to push for energy-rationing policies that will not do anything to prevent similar disasters in the future. This is a shame because the hoo-ha over global warming conceals a real problem that our elected leaders have ignored and continue to ignore.

It is a disgrace that 12 years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans because of inadequate levees (that local, state, and federal agencies had been arguing about for decades but not doing much to fix), the levees have still not been improved enough to prevent a similar disaster happening when a big hurricane hits the area again—which could happen any day. The fact that tens of millions of more people live in these areas than 50 years ago makes the failure by governments at all levels to build and maintain adequate infrastructure all the more disgraceful.

Instead of wasting colossal sums of money on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much smaller amounts should be spent on improving the infrastructure that protects the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Expert commentary by Dr. Roy Spencer on Hurricane Harvey and global warming may be found on his website.

This article appeared on the Competitive Enterprise Institute website at