To use that reality to argue that human action has not had any impact on either the strength or the frequency of storms is every bit as foolish. If you put more energy into a system then it has to go somewhere. When we increase the level of C02 in the atmosphere we can predict with absolute certainty that there must be an impact on climate. The level of CO2 in July 2017 was 407.25 parts per million. In July 2016 it was 404.5. The steady and relentless increase is down to only one single cause – human action. CO2 increases the retention of heat in the atmosphere as a matter of simple scientific fact. Arguing that this has no impact on the climate or that it can’t make storms worse is like arguing that when you turn on a kettle the water won’t start to boil.
It has been fascinating this week to watch the stubborn determination of climate change deniers to ignore the evidence of their own eyes. The US has now lost great chunks of two of its biggest cities to tropical storms in only 12 years. Yet we are still being told that this is just bad luck, a weather event that we can do nothing about and stuff like this happens every 100 years or so regardless of what we do so we don’t need to make any effort to remove the one part of the cause that we are in control of.
Incredibly most of the press has even praised Trump for arriving in Texas early, making sympathetic noises and promising some of his own money. If they have had criticism it has mostly been of the height of his wife’s shoes. The sheer hypocrisy of arriving at a hurricane disaster scene a few weeks after cancelling every single one of the US’s efforts to limit the human impact on storms that he could find is what should have sparked a storm of criticism.
Equally astonishing some of the victims seem to remain firm supporters of Donald Trump’s climate denial. Indeed we’ve been seeing on our television screens pictures of people who have lost everything but are bravely informing us that this is all part of God’s will and somehow he will provide. He won’t. The government might. Provided that the money comes from a budget that Donald Trump hasn’t cut yet. Or that the work of government agencies isn’t shut down by him for too long in an attempt to force through his wall.
Never underestimate the power of wishful thinking in a reactionary. When a change in the way that we do things becomes technologically necessary many people embrace that change and try and shape it or benefit from it. Others simply get more aggressively defensive of their old ways and convince themselves that the need for change will go away if they shout loudly enough against it. There were plenty of people in the nineteenth century who tried to stop the spread of railways by banning them from coming to their town or village. The result was not that railways went away. It was that their town became a backwater that missed out. The same will happen as we leave the fossil fuel era behind us – with the added twist that a powerful minority is still making a lot of money out of sticking to the old ways.
The need to act and to act collectively to try to limit the damage of climate change is evident to every scientist who hasn’t been bought and paid for. It is now not only being accepted as a given but being actively acted upon by almost every government around the world. None of the evidence is going to have any impact on Donald Trump or his strongest supporters. They will simply get more angry and more bigoted in defence of the old ways of doing things.
However, reality does have a strong tendency to convince those who keep open minds. We can all see the human cost of what has happened in Bangladesh and in Texas. We can all understand the suffering. Every time such events happen more people ask themselves the obvious simple questions: “Is this really normal?” “Have our actions contributed anything to making this happen?” “Are we really going to sit back and watch whilst things like this happen more and more frequently?”
Events themselves are persuading more and more people that something is changing to climate that goes well beyond a bit of occasional bad luck with the weather. Let us hope that enough people see right through the likes of Trump thoroughly enough to finish off the last gasp of the reaction against change.
Unlike some people I don’t want to see Trump impeached. I certainly don’t want him assassinated. I fear that will only create a myth that his policies could have worked if it weren’t for an establishment conspiracy. Instead, I would like to see him carry on heading down the approval ratings to the point where it becomes absolutely crystal clear to almost everyone in America and in the world that his politics have failed them. I then want him voted out comprehensively to be replaced by someone who will push forward actions to limit the damage of climate change every bit as energetically as he is pushing them backwards. We need his reactionary politics to be completely exposed and finished off not some quick and clever manoeuvre that leaves any room for doubt about the huge flaws in his thinking.
Before too many more people have their lives wrecked.