As a Miami Beach resident who is writing this surrounded by sandbags in preparation for Hurricane Irma, only a week after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas, I have an urgent question for President Donald Trump and his fellow climate change deniers: How many natural disasters will it take for you to listen to the world’s most prestigious scientists?
Last week, it was Hurricane Harvey, which left billions of dollars in damages and caused at least 60 deaths. This week, it’s Irma, already described as the biggest hurricane in recent memory in the Atlantic. And Hurricanes Jose and Katia are already forming behind it.
Climate deniers like Trump, citing fake news reports and pseudo-scientific studies, say the world has always had warmer and colder periods, and the current wave of global warming is just one more. According to their logic – and that of polluting industries that are behind it – mankind has nothing to do with this. It’s just nature, they claim.
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But 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is being caused by man-made toxic gases, according to a 2013 scientific paper that examined 11,944 climate abstracts. That paper drives climate skeptics mad, but virtually all studies show that there is a near total consensus around man-made climate change among scientists, and that climate deniers are in most cases pseudo-scientists or conservative radio charlatans.
Ligia Collado-Vides, a professor of marine sciences at Florida International University who like most South Floridians was doing last-minute shopping in anticipation of Irma, told me that “it is irresponsible for our political leaders not to accept that man-made climate change is happening, and that there is a clear link between that and the intensity of the hurricanes that are hitting us.”
The earth is getting warmer, which makes oceans get warmer, which in turn makes hurricanes stronger, she said. “Hurricanes feed on warm water. The warmer the water, the stronger the hurricanes will be,” Collado-Vides told me.
The irony of Trump and his cadre of climate skeptics is that while they rely on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Hurricane Center to warn us about incoming hurricanes, they don’t pay attention to NOAA’s own scientific conclusions about human-caused climate change.
In a Dec. 15 scientific paper titled “Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective,” scientists from the American Meteorological Society and NOAA – a U.S. agency whose 12,000-person staff includes 6,737 scientists and engineers – concluded that “human-caused climate change very likely increased the severity of heat waves” in five continents in 2015.
“We’re seeing mounting evidence that climate change is making heat waves more extreme in many regions around the world,” said NOAA scientist and lead editor of the report, Stephanie C. Herring.
Another NOAA scientific paper published on Jan. 18 in collaboration with Princeton University scientists concluded that the number of “mild” days – between 64 and 86 degrees – in U.S. cities is declining rapidly, which will have a huge economic impact on the travel, tourism, construction, transportation and agriculture industries.
While there are currently 97 mild days a year in Miami, 83 in New York and 77 in Chicago, these numbers will drop to an average of 69 days in Miami, 77 days in New York and 68 days in Chicago in the years 2081-2100, the study says.
There is a chance that Congress may push the Trump administration to act more responsibly, especially after the president’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
The Senate is about to debate the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and security goals, and includes an amendment that could call on the Defense Department to write a report on the security risks of global warming. The military tends to take climate change seriously, and could recommend approving the project, known as the Langevin amendment.
Whether the Senate approves the project or not, it’s time for climate change deniers to accept reality. President Trump, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Katia are trying to send you a message. Don’t ignore it.
Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. He can contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.