By Mark Lynas
This is what climate change looks like. Entire metropolitan areas — Houston in the United States and Mumbai in India — submerged in catastrophic floods.
Record-breaking rainfall: Harvey’s 50-plus inches of torrential deluge set a new national tropical cyclone rain record for the continental United States.
They used to make Hollywood disaster movies about this sort of thing. Now it’s just the news.
Officials as senior as Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, have suggested that now — during a natural disaster — is not the time to raise the divisive and highly politicized issue of global warming. But if not now, when? After the waters subside, the news crews pack up, and the long task of rebuilding begins, the world’s attention inevitably moves on.
We all have a duty to confront denial and speak out. If we fail, the Harveys, Katrinas and Sandys of the future will be even worse than the storms we experience today.
Watching Trump tour the flooded areas, I was reminded of his Rose Garden press conference less than three months ago announcing the US withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty. In that act of wanton international vandalism, Trump was helping condemn millions more people to the threat of intensified extreme events in future decades.
Conspiracy of silence
It is not politically opportunistic to raise this issue now. Instead we have a moral duty not to accept the attempted conspiracy of silence imposed by powerful political and business interests opposed to any reduction in the use of fossil fuels. We owe this to the people of Texas as much to those of Bangladesh and India, and Niger — which was also struck by disastrous flooding this week.
Climate disasters demonstrate our collective humanity and interdependence. We have to help each other out — in the short term by saving lives and in the longer term by cutting greenhouse gases and enhancing resilience, especially in developing countries.
No, of course climate change did not “cause” Harvey in any singular sense. Nor does smoking definitively “cause” any individual case of lung cancer. Smoking increases the risk of cancer, just as increased global warming increases the risk of extreme rainfall events.
This is not scientifically controversial. There is a straightforward physical relationship between a warming atmosphere and extreme rainfall potential. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
George Monbiot: We Can’t Be Silent On Climate Breakdown Or The Unsustainability Of Capitalist System
Democracy Now! (8/31/7)
While Houston continues to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we look at the media silence on the human contribution to the record-breaking storm.
British journalist and author George Monbiot wrote that despite 2016 being the hottest year on record, the combined coverage during the evening and Sunday news programs on the main television networks amounted to a total of 50 minutes in all of last year. “Our greatest predicament, the issue that will define our lives, has been blotted from the public’s mind,” he wrote. The silence has been even more resounding on climate-related disasters in areas of the world where populations are more vulnerable—most recently, on the devastating floods across the globe, from Niger to South Asia. Over the past month, more than 1,200 people have died amid flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal and India. This year’s monsoon season has brought torrential downpours that have submerged wide swaths of South Asia, destroying tens of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals. Meanwhile, in Niger, West Africa, thousands of people have been ordered to leave their homes in the capital Niamey after several days of heavy downpours.
We speak with Monbiot, columnist at The Guardian. His book, “Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis,” will be out this week.
- George Monbiot – Why Are The Crucial Questions About Hurricane Harvey Not Being Asked? – This is a manmade climate-related disaster. To ignore this ensures our greatest challenge goes unanswered and helps push the world towards catastrophe… It is not only Donald Trump’s government that censors the discussion of climate change; it is the entire body of polite opinion. This is why, though the links are clear and obvious, most reports on Hurricane Harvey have made no mention of the human contribution to it. … Read the Rest
Unnatural Disaster: There Is No Such Thing As A ‘Natural’ Disaster
The Commoner Call (9/4/17)
Last week’s edition of WNYC’s On The Media provides an excellent summary of Hurricane Harvey media coverage, placing it within the context of recent weather disasters like Hurricane Katrina and super storm Sandy: threadbare media disaster tropes; short-sighted corporate manipulation of the political process; the unwillingness of the media to view Houston within the arc of global climate breakdown and the fact that when it comes to the ravaging of a major metro area there really is no such thing as a “natural” disaster.
As a bonus there is an interesting closing segment analysis of just where the downward spiraling Trump administration and its republican party hostages are headed.
- Why Are The Crucial Questions About Hurricane Harvey Not Being Asked? – Climate breakdown, as George Monbiot calls it, is happening before our eyes at the same time the science on climate change grows stronger and has wider acceptance. Hurricane Harvey, which struck at the center of the petroleum industry – the heart of climate denialism – provided a glimpse of the new normal of climate crisis-induced events. In Asia, this week the climate message was even stronger where at least 1,200 people died and 41 million were impacted. By 2050, one billion people could be displaced by climate crises. … The three decade life of the IPCC has coincided with deep corruption of government by the energy industry, sprawl developers and other dirty energy profiteers. The anti-science movement in the United States, which includes government officials, industry and others who deny climate change exists, provides cover for elected officials to do nothing or act inadequately on the urgent reality of climate chaos so that corporations continue to threaten the planet. … Read the Rest