TWITE 08.31.17

Posted August 30, 2017

There can be no denial. Hurricane Harvey is one of the worst disasters to hit the US in recent memory. Why is it so bad? Is it purely an “Act of God,” or does it have more Earthly roots? Climate science predicts that major storms like this will happen less frequently but with greater severity—precisely the trend we are already seeing. Qualitatively, it’s straightforward to attribute worsening storms to climate change. It is inarguable that the air and ocean are warming, which strengthens storms, and that rising sea levels exacerbate storm surges. Quantitatively, it’s very difficult to assign an exact number value to how climate change influences specific weather events. Some have latched onto this quantitative uncertainty as an excuse to—baselessly—dismiss all claims that climate change has impacted Harvey’s severity. But the truth is that Hurricane Harvey is perfect storm of institutionalized climate denial, corporate greed, poor planning, environmental regulation rollbacks, and human-caused climate change. This ongoing tragedy was largely avoidable. Ask yourself, why did we do essentially nothing to prepare for it?

We need to get angry, and we need to remember. We need to place the blame where it belongs and take action. Anything less is unacceptably disrespectful to all those who have suffered and died, and all those that will suffer and die from continued inaction. This is climate change.

—Jon Conway, Ph.D., Greenpower Research Director

5. Trump Rolled Back Federal Standards to Flood-Proof Infrastructure Projects a Few Weeks Before Harvey Hit Vox

One of the factors contributing to the extreme flooding in Texas right now is the lack of state and federal building code regulations for climate change-exacerbated flooding. The Obama Administration began the process of updating building codes to be better prepared for such events, but in his typical short-sighted pro-business manner, Trump ended that long-overdue process earlier this month. If these codes had been up to date well before Harvey hit it is unlikely the damage would have achieved its current magnitude. Trump’s cancellation of future improvements means that we’re setting ourselves up for disaster yet again.

"Had [Obama’s proposed flooding] regulations been finalized for FEMA and HUD in particular, they would have ensured that all the post-Harvey rebuilding complied with those standards, helping ensure that we built back in a way that was safer." Rob Moore, National Resources Defense Council

4. Conservative Groups Shrug Off Link Between Tropical Storm Harvey and Climate Change The Guardian

Unsurprisingly, fossil fuel industry shills like Trump’s transition team leaders Myron Ebell and Thomas Pyle are using Hurricane Harvey to advance their investors’ anti-climate action agenda, all while claiming that “the climate change cultists” are politicizing the issue by bringing up the role climate change is playing. Unfortunately, climate change is a fact we must face, not just a political issue. Indeed, it has only become political because industry special interest groups who would see their profits decrease if the world took serious climate action have bought and paid for politicians at the world’s expense. These politicians include Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Texas governor Greg Abbott, and Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, all of whom have come out as climate deniers while the people whose interests they are supposed to represent suffer and die. How much longer will the American people allow this institutionalized denial to continue?

3. Governments Face 'Wave of Legal Action' Over Climate Change Inaction as Natural Disasters Worsen, Activists Warn The Independent

There is a growing push to reclassify climate change-exacerbated extreme weather events from “acts of god” to “acts of men” that could have far-reaching legal and economic ramifications. Thus far, fossil fuel companies have largely been able to avoid paying for the external costs of their activities; that is, they pass on the financial and health costs of extracting, refining, and burning fossil fuels to the governments and people of the world—costs that tally into the trillions of dollars. But now a set of climate-related lawsuits in the US and UK are forcing courts to consider the challenging notion that these companies and the governments who enable them are in fact at least partially responsible for the massive property damage and loss of life caused by climate change. For too long the true costs of greed and corruption have been dumped on those least responsible. This is a major, and absolutely necessary, step toward creating a society capable of surviving into the future.

"Identifying the human influence in events once only understood as ‘acts of god’ will reshape the legal landscape, meaning governments and businesses could be sued if they don’t take action to protect people from floods, heatwaves and other foreseeable climate change risks." Statement from ClientEarth and Earth & Water Law

2. Largest Oil Refinery in US to Shut Down Due to Harvey The Hill

The current climate change period is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels (in addition to other factors like deforestation, industrial activities, and overconsumption of meat) and we are now entering a period of time where the changing climate is disrupting the complex fossil fuel supply chain. If you need a prime example of the self-destructive nature of an exploitative fossil fuel economy, Hurricane Harvey has provided it in the form of the forced closure of the largest US oil refinery. In its smash-and-grab haste to squeeze as much profit from the planet as possible, the fossil fuel industry has created a dangerously fragile global infrastructure to produce and transport oil, gas, and coal. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to simply sit back and wait for extreme climate events like this to bring the fossil fuel industry to its knees without inflicting unimaginable tragedy on our human family.

1. Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now is the Time to Talk About Climate Change The Intercept

There are few things I can say here that aren’t covered by Naomi Klein in her article about the failure of the media and the public to engage in serious discussion about climate action, except this: It’s time to pick a side. We are rapidly running out of time for debate, for centrism, for “both sides”-ing. Will you be on the side governed by hate and short-sighted greed, the side that will inevitably lead to loss of human life on an unspeakable scale and the likely destruction of our civilization? Or will you be on the side fighting to create a sustainable and equitable future for our children and our children’s children? If this seems hyperbolic, I’ll just point out that I’ve read the primary scientific literature, the criticisms, the denialist claims, the political debates, the history, the projections, and the poll results. It’s not hyperbole. This is how it is. It’s time to face the facts.

"Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters — even while they’re playing out in real time — isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines. In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims." Naomi Klein

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