A National Emergency

Hurricane Harvey was a devastating Category 4 hurricane that terrified and killed people and animals. It will cost billions of dollars to rebuild Texas. The impact on businesses, human health, and marine and wildlife is incalculable.

As Irma approaches, yet another catastrophic hurricane, it’s time for climate scientists to take center stage. Despite warnings of storms of biblical proportions, wildfires, and record-breaking rainfall and heat (According to NASA and NOAA, 2016 was the warmest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880), many politicians refuse to accept the science that explains erratic weather patterns and how humans contribute to them.

In 1990, I began working for a nonprofit environmental protection organization on Capitol Hill after attending sobering Earth Day presentations on the Mall. U.S. Senator Al Gore had made a compelling case in his 1990 op-ed “To Skeptics on Global Warming…” that if we didn’t take steps to combat climate change, the world would suffer catastrophic consequences. Whether it’s a drought destroying farmers’ crops, a hurricane flooding people’s homes, wildfires killing animals, or sweltering heat affecting people’s way of life, the weather doesn’t discriminate based on political affiliation. In Gore’s letter, he ominously warned about the growing “intensity of storms” and risk of inaction.

Unfortunately, the current U.S. administration includes a potpourri of climate contrarians who take policy positions that run antithetical to science: EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue chief among them. Even Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott reject climate change science. Both prefer rescues and cleanups over prevention.

How much evidence do climate change deniers need that something is horribly amiss? Statistics abound. For example, the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t drop below 73 degrees last winter. That has never happened. When the temperature is warmer, the oceans are warmer which causes more moisture in the air. More moisture empowers storms. Climate science isn’t rocket science.

The National Climate Assessment (NCA) found that “The heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent, and the amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased.” The team of more than 300 experts at the NCA concluded that the mechanism driving these changes is hotter air stemming from “human-caused warming.” Climate scientists have proven the cause of climate change; the onus should be on climate change deniers to disprove it.

Fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other human activities such as deforestation and animal agriculture release methane and nitrous oxide that further warm the planet. Warmer temperatures contribute to drought, fires, floods, hurricanes, and other intense weather conditions. But clean energy and plant-based food exist in spades. We need more investments in these industries and more politicians paving the way for them. They’re more climate-friendly, efficient, humane, cost-effective, and sustainable forms of energy and food.

You can help! Please contact these politicians who deny climate change in your state and tell them to support common-sense solutions.

Refusing to accept the facts that explain climate change, choosing to deny it to support dying fossil fuel industries, or electing to ignore it for political reasons won’t prevent it. Since fossil fuel and animal agriculture companies cause climate change, they have waged campaigns against curbing emissions to grow their profits. They’re doing what’s in their interest–not yours–so you should oppose them regardless of your political affiliation.

Hurricane Andrew should have been a wake-up call to deal responsibly with climate change. Katrina and Wilma should have been sobering reminders. Sandy and Harvey should have sealed the deal. And now Irma should make investments in alternative energy and plant-based food and reducing greenhouses gases a national emergency.

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