Have hurricanes like Florence, Maria, and Harvey become deadlier and more destructive because of human-caused changes in Earth’s climate system?
by Anne Polansky
Sr. Climate Policy Analyst
From September 14-18, 2018 Hurricane Florence dumped more than 19 trillion gallons of water on the Carolinas with record-breaking rainfall that flooded most highways and roads, caused 16 major rivers to overflow, and produced powerful floodwaters that are still, today, impeding normal activity and inflicting additional damage and loss of life. The first storm-related death occurred on September 13, a day before Florence made landfall, and the death count has risen nearly each day since to reach the current count of 48 at the time of writing. Nearly 50 people of all ages, genders, and races have lost their lives, caused either directly or indirectly by the hurricane and its aftermath. Have no doubt, the mortality rate will continue to rise, possibly to triple or even quadruple digits, for months to come. Property damage and destruction is already immense and overwhelming. Already we are seeing damage appraisals in the tens of billions of dollars, primarily due to destroyed housing stock and other real estate. The full extent of Florence’s devastation to the Eastern Seaboard and its residents won’t be fully known or understood for a long time. Recovery will be difficult and slow for many and, for some, recovery may not happen at all.
Have hurricanes like Florence, Maria, and Harvey become deadlier and more destructive because of human-caused changes in Earth’s climate system? Given the heavy toll to life and property being exacted on large populations, not just by Florence but by Maria, Harvey and others, this is a fundamentally important question. A vast amount of relevant knowledge and information has been produced by a robust US federal climate change research effort that goes back decades and represents the world’s largest scientific investment of its kind. Americans are entitled to the fruits of this taxpayer-funded investment in the form of truthful answers regarding these increasingly unnatural, natural disasters from our elected officials — including the US President.
Yet, in the wake of these devastating storms, the American people have not heard a word from the White House regarding the well-established causal link between rising global average temperatures that disrupt Earth’s climate system and these increasingly extreme weather events.
Not. One. Word.