Are Harvey and Irma teachable moments on climate change?

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This past Friday, I posted here an argument that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, coming in quick succession,  might provide a good opportunity for Americans to ponder the effects of climate change on such disastrous weather events.

But perhaps I was a bit hasty in coming to  such a conclusion.

Oh, I still believe that climate change was a contributing factor to these storms. But I probably shouldn’t expect that public opinion on climate matters will now undergo a major shift.

In an essay published earlier today on the website Axios, Amy Harder writes that “Harvey could become a flashpoint in the public’s views on climate change, yet simultaneously fail to move the needle much, partly because humans have short attention spans, are too wedded to preconceived notions, and are in denial about the real consequences of the issue.”

Harder says scientists are walking a fine line: “Most are careful not to overstate what the science says about the link: Climate change probably made Harvey worse with more rainfall, but the hurricane would have happened with devastating repercussions regardless.”

But scientists “also don’t want to miss what many see as an opportunity — a deadly, catastrophic, expensive one, to be sure — to speak to a public that might be temporarily more cognizant of climate change.”

Harder cites an argument by Renee Lertzman, a psychosocial researcher for more than 20 years, who says it won’t do much good to point to Harvey and tell people who don’t acknowledge climate science that this is how we’re going to suffer if we don’t act on climate change.

The message needs to be more compassionate and less condescending, according to Lertzman.

“We have to get out of that emotional loop we’re in,” Lertzman says. “Unless we actually talk about the trauma and anxiety about what it means to come to terms with our way of life then something like Harvey won’t have any effect.”.

Perhaps so, but more than a few deniers are stubbornly anti-science and probably will remain that way for the rest of their days. Consider the fact that many of them also don’t believe in human evolution.




  1. Willful ignorance is American as apple pie, baseball and jazz!

  2. Robert Hazz Geaunads

    I think most thoughtful people realize, that climate change deniers, or even those who acknowledge it but claim its just a natural transition, are influenced by paid promoters originating from the fossil fuels industry. Those that don’t see the connection, never will.

    Just like people who will blame current world events on Trump, will never see or acknowledge the history that got us to where we are. Perilous times is what we’re entering. I’d rather have Trump than the wife of the man who sold out America, not only to the North Koreans with the deal that gave them nuclear technology, but to China and all the other benefactors of our once mighty industrial base.

    Screw the Clintons and I really meant the F bomb. Anybody who stands with the Clintons, stands against the USA. That’s where we are now.

  3. Shawn Robinson

    North Korea had nuclear technology before the Clinton’s. They agreed to abandon it under the “agreed framework” but that fell through. Clinton handing weaponized nuclear technology to North Korea is just as convoluted a tale as the claim that Obama gave $150 billion to Iran, or the claim that Hillary Clinton sold our uranium to Russia. In all theses obfuscations, the truthful details are more mundane.

    • You stand with the Clintons. Clinton and Carter both played a big role in how we got to where we are, just like Kerry and Obama did with Iran, who will follow the same path. Glamorize the events all you want.

      Bill Clinton sold out the USA, just as Perot noted with that big whooshing sound symbolizing the exit of factories and our technologies to foreigners. It floors me to see people from Rockford or connections to it, defend the loss of factories and good paying jobs. How’d that work out for ya?

  4. Shawn Robinson

    I prefer to criticize people for things that they actually do rather than imaginary deeds. There’s a lot to criticize in all of America’s foreign policy. There’s also obvious falsehoods about foreign policy that get trotted out to clog truthful discussion. You will see in my comment I haven’t mentioned factories leaving at all. If you are a critic of “free trade,” well, me too, but I also have benefited from free trade policies. You can benefit from a policy, political party or platform while criticizing it.
    To bring it back to the subject of Pat’s post, the Republicans can now revise their entire worldview on pollution, environmental disasters and aid to devastated communities. They can now take this opportunity to modernize their policies along with scientists and environmental workers who will be cleaning up flooded areas for years.
    I think the Republican view on environmentalism hasn’t changed since the 80s. They usually adopted Milton Friedman’s ideas. He;s a free trade/ globalism guy though.

  5. Steverino

    The Clinton Foundation has contributed substantially to global environmental concerns while Carter with hammer and nail serves Habitat for Humanity. These are both honorable causes unlike the current administration’s intent to decimate whatever good there is left.

  6. Steverino

    Just like Benghazi another concern going nowhere.

  7. If it involves the Clinton’s and it is criminal, it always goes nowhere.

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