Climate Change Debate: As both coasts of America currently battle severe weather in the form of wildfires and hurricanes, debate over the validity of climate change is gaining traction. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Climate Change Debate
Yesterday, President Joe Biden surveyed the damage in parts of the Northeast that suffered catastrophic flash flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. At least 50 people were killed in six Eastern states as record rainfall last week overwhelmed rivers and sewer systems, Darlene Superville reports for the Associated Press. “Biden’s visit follows a Friday trip to Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida first made landfall, killing at least 13 people in the state and plunging New Orleans into darkness.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Caldor Fire burning near Lake Tahoe forced thousands of people to evacuate. The blaze ignited August 14 and spread to more than 207,000 acres, an area larger than New York City. As Superville notes, “Scientists say climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events, including large tropical storms that swirl into powerful hurricanes,” and fires that are fueled by droughts, extreme heat, dryness, and wind. Zooming out, one in three Americans experienced a weather disaster this summer. Here’s what both sides of the aisle are saying about this summer’s floods and fires:
On The Right
Right-leaning commentators urge readers to dive deeper into corresponding data. Below, a few voices note that landfall-hurricanes are actually becoming less frequent and our storm mitigation and response is drastically improving. In regards to wildfires, another argues that the country needs better forest management.
“Hurricane Ida Isn’t the Whole Story on Climate” Bjorn Lomborg, Wall Street Journal Opinion: “… despite what you may have heard, Atlantic hurricanes are not becoming more frequent. In fact, the frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the continental US has declined slightly since 1900. … And there aren’t more powerful hurricanes either. The frequency Category 3 and above hurricanes making landfall since 1900 is also trending slightly down. … Images of the devastation caused by powerful storms can be heartbreaking, but remember that development along the vulnerable US coastline has expanded dramatically in the last half century. Many more people live in the paths of these destructive storms than did so even a few decades ago. … Better infrastructure, fed by improved technology and wealth, does more to protect lives and property than cutting carbon emissions. Today, hurricanes around the world cause damage worth 0.04% of global gross domestic product. … The number of hurricanes hitting American soil has gone down—even strong ones. And with or without emissions cuts, the world is becoming more resilient to hurricanes.”
“Forests burn, bureaucracy fiddles – let’s act now to save these national treasures” Greg Walcher, Fox News Opinion: “Professional foresters know how to manage forests to sustain their yield, their beauty, and their health, forever. But professional foresters are not in charge. For 25 years, politicians, environmental industry groups, and the most cumbersome bureaucratic process imaginable have intervened to prevent professional management. The result is that over 100 million acres of national forests have burned to the ground, including the largest fires ever in California, Colorado, and several other states … In fact, a generation of politicians have created such a maze of regulations that ‘analysis paralysis’ has all but stopped the professional management of our public forests … Most environmental organizations blame climate change. … The real culprit, of course, is poor management, for allowing the unnatural overgrowth of forests that turns them into tinderboxes which obliterate landscapes when ignited. … Like all living things, trees live, grow, and die, so forests cannot be preserved in their current condition forever. So, we face a clear and simple choice. Forests must be managed, or allowed to die and burn. When there are no forests left, only deserts, will we still demand more studies, more delays, and more bureaucratic red tape?”
“A hurricane of misinformation on climate change” Editorial Board, Washington Examiner: “According to the best available projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, climate change is actually expected to decrease the overall number of hurricanes by 25%. Because fewer low-intensity hurricanes will form, the intensity will increase, on average, by 5%, NOAA projects. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the same thing: The proportion of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes will increase by 2100, but the number of hurricanes overall will go down. … None of this means we shouldn’t take the challenges of climate change or stronger storms seriously [but] With the lessons of Katrina learned and the levees properly maintained, Ida produced no major flooding … In addition to better storm mitigation, the United States also needs to lower carbon emissions. There is only one known way of doing this, and that is to embrace nuclear power. … Climate change is real, and it is a challenge. But to misstate the science and abandon carbon-free nuclear power is the exact opposite of rising to the challenge. Indeed, it only makes the challenge more difficult.”
On The Left
Left-leaning commentators beg readers to open their eyes and take stock in what is happening in real time. They believe the fires and floods over the past summer are proof that climate change is real and should be addressed immediately.
“Hurricanes are getting scarier” Suzana Camargo, CNN Opinion: “The last few months have seen a whirlwind of devastating extreme events, from extensive flooding in Europe to wildfires in California. … In August, Hurricane Elsa affected Jamaica, Cuba, and Florida; Hurricane Grace brought substantial rainfall to Haiti two days after a devastating earthquake before making landfall twice in Mexico. And Hurricane Henri drenched New England. … Last weekend, while Category 4 Hurricane Ida was besieging Louisiana and Mississippi, Hurricane Nora was bringing rain, flash floods, and mudslides to western Mexico. … Last year, there were multiple cases of Atlantic storms that went through rapid intensification just before hitting land … As the planet warms, hurricanes could intensify more rapidly close to land and forecasting those cases could become more difficult. … The clear message from climate change studies is to expect increases in the occurrence of the most intense hurricanes, rainfall associated with hurricanes, and inundation from storm surge due to sea level rise. … As we have witnessed in many of these extreme events this summer, the social and economic impacts are enormous. We cannot continue to delay taking significant action to massively reduce carbon emissions to avoid further damage from climate change. The time to act is now.”
“What’s causing California’s unprecedented wildfires” Umair Irfan, Vox: “Another explosive wildfire season is underway in California, with more than a million acres already burned in 2021. While still short of the unprecedented 2020 fire season, the blazes this year are well above average and are still gaining ground. … Researchers said that the current fires align with what they forecast earlier this year, noting that the region was parched by a massive drought, was facing severe heat, and had plenty of trees, brush, and grass ready to burn. … Human activity has made wildfires worse at every step. Climate change caused by burning fossil fuels is increasing the aridity of western forests and increasing the frequency and severity of extreme heat events. … Over the long term, slowing climate change by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions can also stop fires from becoming even more destructive. The factors that laid the foundation for massive wildfires took centuries to build and won’t be reversed overnight. But the process of reducing these risks can begin now.”
“Hurricane Ida Offers a Glimpse of the Dystopia That’s Coming for All of Us” Andy Horowitz, New York Times Opinion: “The big story, for New Orleans, is that the levees held. … Hurricane Ida’s lesson, therefore, is not that Louisiana’s storm protections are good enough. Its lesson is that investments in infrastructure save lives. … [This is why] you might take an interest in that infrastructure bill. … At $1 trillion, it offers a modest down payment on our collective needs — shoring up the roads and bridges … Take an interest though, too, in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package Congress is also considering, which gets a little closer to the scale of the problems before us. … Structural problems need structural solutions. Don’t give charity to Louisiana because it’s unique. Demand that Congress take meaningful action, because Louisiana is not unique, and you may be next.”
Flag This: Climate Change Debate
Data from Morning Consult shows the alarm over climate change and natural disasters among the US public has not increased as related threats become more tangible, Lisa Martine Jenkins writes. “Weekly surveys conducted from late May through early August show that the share of adults who say they are ‘very concerned’ about climate change has largely stagnated, fluctuating between 38 percent and 42 percent.” On a party level, “The share of Democrats who are very concerned about climate change has settled in the range of 57 to 66 percent since May, while that of Republicans has remained between 16 and 22 percent over the same period.”
Flag Poll: Climate Change Debate
How concerned are you about the impact natural disasters (flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and other types of storms) may exert on your community? Comment below to share your thoughts.