Share this page on facebook
A climate-change lesson for dim students PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 06 September 2017 18:21

Is it possible that politicians who reject global warming, whether through ignorance or political expediency, learned something from Hurricane Harvey?
    There is a lesson in that catastrophe that even those who insist that man-made climate change is a crackpot theory or a Chinese hoax should not be able to ignore.
    The lesson is not that global warming causes hurricanes. It doesn’t. But climate scientists are certain that the heating of the atmosphere is responsible for Harvey exploding into what is, by several measures, the worst natural disaster in American history.
    Harvey’s lesson is not about the existence of  global warming; the lesson is about the consequences of global warming.
    The impact of climate change was once thought to be a problem of the future, something that, if it happened at all, would have to be faced by generations to come. Harvey teaches that it is here now.
    There has also been a sense in the climate-change debate that if a toll were to be exacted by global warming, it would be paid mostly by inhabitants of parts of the world far from U.S. shores, that the foreseen flooding, famines, wars over distressed land and food supplies, obliteration of low-lying territory and threats to the structure of societies and economies would mainly affect already struggling undeveloped countries. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate agreement joined by nearly every other country suggests a belief that the U.S. with its vast economic power is somehow immune to the climate chaos caused by global warming.
    Harvey teaches that there is no immunity and that the prosperity of the U.S. actually makes it more vulnerable to climate disasters.
    With loss estimates now at about $200 billion, Hurricane Harvey is the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history. The combination of the storm’s never-before-seen deluges and the mind-boggling scope of the development of the Houston area made that true.
    Harvey’s lesson in the consequences of global warming is further driven home by the human misery it caused—the loss of lives and the devastation of the well being of tens of thousands of Texas residents—and its spiraling nationwide impact on everything from gasoline prices to the federal budget.
    Hurricanes have been battering the U.S. since long before the earth warmed to its current levels, but never has a hurricane produced as much rainfall. The 50 inches measured in parts of Texas is more rain than ever recorded from a single weather event in this country.
    One of the measures of global warming is the rise of seawater temperatures around the globe. As Harvey spun toward the Texas coast, the surface water of the Gulf of Mexico was as much as 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the gulf’s long-term average surface water temperature. As it fed Harvey, it was one of the hottest ocean-surface spots in the world.
    “This was the main fuel for the storm,” explained Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of many climate experts who had no doubt about the source of the hurricane’s lethal energy. “It may have been a strong storm anyway, but human-caused climate change amplified the damage.”
    Harvey taught its lesson with a grim preview of the weather extremes that await the world if emissions of carbon gases into the atmosphere aren’t reduced.
    The lesson is so blunt and obvious that even federal elected officials like Rep. Glenn Grothman, who in letters to the editor published in Ozaukee Press and in his town hall meetings resorts to discredited shibboleths and fear-mongering claims about the impact of carbon reduction efforts on the economy to deny human-caused climate change, should be able to get it.
    If not, unfortunately, these dim students will have other opportunities to learn, because more lessons, some perhaps harder than Harvey, are sure to come.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Donald Voigt
Climate Change - Being a Responsible Citizen
written by Donald Voigt, September 23, 2017
Great summary of the very real concerns for climate change. As an engineer, I am exposed to near daily reminders of the effects of this change, on design elements throughout our nation. And, with a "winter place" in Florida, the effects of a warming ocean are dramatic and difficult to watch. And, I'm amazed at the denial of this impending increasing carnage of nature's "revenge" by (even) our engineering profession. To my observations, it seems that accepting the reality that such climate change is our own making is a sign of personal maturity and personal accountability (for example, personal sacrifice by through reduction in our individual impact on consumption). Such responsibility (discipline?), begins with our youth....hopefully, our school system embraces the need for such responsible behavior. Superintendent - Dr Weber....are we doing well?

Write comment
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.