With hurricane season officially upon us, it's frightening that the Trump administration continues to ignore the role climate change plays in spawning increasingly horrific storms that threaten the lives and property of Texans and residents of other Gulf states.
The U.S. Climate and Health Alliance said Hurricane Harvey dealt Texas a harder blow two years ago because climate change produced stronger storm surges, increased precipitation, and created more powerful winds. Harvey dumped nearly of 52 inches of rain on parts of Harris County. Researchers said that was 40 percent more rain than a similar storm would have produced decades ago.
Not even scientists within President Trump's administration have been able to weaken his skepticism. He paid no attention to the latest National Climate Assessment, which every four years evaluates the effects of climate change on the United States. The report said climate change had made Texas particularly "vulnerable to increasing temperatures, extreme precipitation and continued sea level rise."
The report meant nothing to Trump, who remains hell bent on reversing environmental rules imposed by previous administrations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide that cause global warming. It's bad enough that Trump ignores science, but he has also placed accomplices in key positions to hide the truth from the rest of us.
One culprit is former astronaut James Reilly, who Trump appointed last year to head the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the federal agencies charged with keeping tabs on climate change and predicting its impact. Reilly, a geologist who also once worked for an oil exploration company, has ordered USGS scientists using computer-generated climate models to project the impact of climate change only through 2040.
If you think it's mere coincidence that scientists say current emissions' impact on global warming won't be felt until after 2040, you need to know more about Reilly. During last year's confirmation hearings, he assured senators, "I'm fully committed to scientific integrity." Yet when asked specifically "when" more action should be taken to address global warming, Reilly suddenly became cryptic.
"Interpretation of the 'when' is really the problem," he said, "and the 'when' really is the problem in: What's that spectrum of time for you? Time, in this regard, is probably the same as what was best described in how you measure depth in a seismic section. That is, it's basically numbers on a rubber band, and you're doing one of these things, trying to figure out where's the best fit."
Come again? His mutterings are reminiscent of Bill Clinton debating the meaning of the word 'is.' Only in this case, the consequences of denial are quite possibly apocalyptic.
Truth becomes more complex when we don't want to face it. All Reilly had to say is "now." Now is the time to directly confront global warming. Reilly shouldn't be in charge of the USGS if he can't admit that. If scientific integrity is as important to him as he said it is, he won't make it a casualty to Trump's insistence that global warming take a back seat to whatever business model he believes is more important than surviving catastrophic climate-related events.
Another of Trump's sycophants, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, shocked some participants at a recent meeting in Finland of the eight-nation Arctic Council when he seemed to suggest global warming is good because it is thawing a bonanza of untapped reserves of oil, gas, uranium, gold and rare minerals while opening up new shipping routes and fisheries. The words "climate change" never came out of Pompeo's mouth.
NASA, which like the USGS studies our climate, says the damaging changes scientists expect to occur beyond 2040 include stronger, more frequent, and longer-lasting hurricanes, rising sea levels due to melting ice, and an "essentially ice free" Arctic Ocean. NASA says the southwestern United States should expect "declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas."
At this point, it appears unlikely that Trump will ever stop trying to weaken or get rid of environmental rules that would help mitigate these and other devastating consequences. He's surrounded himself with yes men such as Reilly and Pompeo who won't talk him down from his position. He doesn't listen to anyone in Congress, Republican or Democrat, who might change his mind.
So, it's up to the American public to reach the president. He's running for re-election, so he must care what voters think. Contact the White House and let Trump know you don't want to live in fear of more storms even worse than Harvey. Tell the president it's time to acknowledge human activity's role in creating the greenhouses gases that cause global warming and to do something about it.