Watching terrifying radar of what scientists predicted — Irma’s march up the Florida peninsula — a thought occurred about a tranquil and serendipitous observation days earlier.
That brilliant day we knew exactly when the sun and moon would intersect — the solar eclipse. Yes, down to the second. Science gave us a drumroll. We trusted it.
I wondered why President Trump didn’t stay inside and harrumph those eclipse predictions away. Why trust scientists?
What was Florida Gov. Rick Scott doing on eclipse day? What about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott? Along with majorities in both states’ legislatures, neither chooses to believe what science says about the biggest story in the world.
From his Florida home, Rush Limbaugh called the projected lethality of Irma a “liberal hoax” — before hustling his bushy tail out of town ahead of it.
Though the media are hooked to “breaking” events, the biggest story is not that which hits when TV crews are on the scene in rain slickers.
It’s what happens every day, gradually, almost invisibly, like species being rubbed out by development, like pine beetles gnawing away at forests.
Like sea levels rising.
Like tropical storms becoming much more potent, dumping rainfall amounts not seen before.
Like politicians and their enablers seeing evidence they choose not to acknowledge.
Sea levels were rising long before Irma put Florida in a headlock. Global sea levels measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, are at historic highs and rising at increasing rates. This is no surprise. Scientists said it would happen as global temperatures rose.
Scientists have theorized that as global temperatures rose, extreme storms would become more extreme.
In March, a team of international climate scientists confirmed this. The study looked at events like Texas’ devastating 2011 drought, flooding in Pakistan in 2010, and the 2015 California wildfires. It tied them to how climate change causes the jet stream to stall and to prolong and intensify the worst climatological events.
These matters may help explain the prolonged horrors of Harvey and the fact that Irma was twice Hurricane Andrew’s size. Even if they don’t, we have enough evidence to be treating climate change as the most serious matter ever besetting the planet.
That’s right. Ever.
We’re talking about vanishing glaciers, the streams from which, like the Ganges in India and Bangladesh, have sustained whole regions.
We’re talking about something as grave as the Great Barrier Reef destroyed by too-warm waters.
We’re talking about those pine beetles — on whom the only check is the kind of prolonged, bitter Rocky Mountain freeze that climate change has consigned to another era.
Back to Florida: Gov. Scott warned Floridians to be ahead of the storm. But when it comes to getting ahead of the kinds of events that have placed Florida in such a precarious situation, he’s not been interested. He’s put a virtual gag order on discussing climate change, just as the Trump administration has done.
Ah, yes. In the wake of Harvey, Irma, José and Katia, with historic fires in the Northwest thrown in for good measure, Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, said now’s not the time to discuss such matters. It’s time to deal with the damage from all the natural havoc.
Actually, Mr. Pruitt, your job is protecting the environment. But since you’ve spent most of your life protecting industry at the expense of the environment, you’ve had lots of experience for what you are not doing now.
When, then, is the time to discuss climate change? No time, according to you and your arrogant club of profit-seekers.
Yes, we knew exactly when the sun and moon would intersect. Down to the second. We knew exactly what was happening then.
About the climate, we know exactly what is happening now. And we don’t need special glasses to see it.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.