During the 1992 presidential election, Bill Clinton’s campaign (notably, James Carville) coined the phrase, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ to emphasize their candidate’s purported ability to correct and change the course of an otherwise poor economy. It worked. Clinton won the election. In the process, the mantra was repeated so often it became a part of the American political lexicon.
In the latter half of 2020, while the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its terrible toll on American lives due to the federal government’s mismanagement, West Coast wildfires set records and burn out of control while one storm after another batters the Gulf Coast and Southeast. These natural disasters seem to worsen year by year so much that in time, it appears that some parts of our country may become unlivable.
This is not to say that they’re livable now. Considering the pandemic as well as smoke and danger from the wildfires, Californians can no longer socialize or feel safe either indoors or out. The fires are so hot that they create their own weather. And it’s not just the West Coast. The 2020 hurricane season sees the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida taking on one storm-of-the-century after another. Those suffering from the storm surges and record rainfall must wish they could send at least some of it to California.
Climate change is here, and it’s happening now. Record heat and drought precipitated the West Coast wildfires, and the hotter gulf and ocean water cause the increase in number and intensity of hurricanes and other tropical storms. There ought to be no debate about this. It should be clear beyond any reasonable doubt that climate science has been proven correct. Our house is on fire. The only question should be, how can we put it out?
Yet, the right, led by President Donald Trump, continues to equivocate. Trump offers his own explanation for the wildfires: “When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry, really like a matchstick. And they explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the flames.” This would be all the more hilarious if people didn’t place their trust in this man who claims to know more about science than scientists. When pressed about it, he responds, “I don’t think science knows, actually.” Actually, it does, Mr. Trump.
Others on the right have chimed in with slightly more eloquent words to obfuscate the causes for the fires. Some of the stated reasons are undoubtedly true. Forest mismanagement, encroaching development, lightening, and of course human carelessness certainly share some blame. But let’s be clear: these are the sparks, not the true underlying causes. We would not be seeing millions of acres ablaze like this if it were not for climate change.
It’s the same with hurricanes and other tropical storms. As climate models have predicted, tropical storms are getting far stronger as the earth warms due to climate change. In a paper recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers show that the cause of the increasingly intense storms is climate change. The clear trend: storms are getting stronger in general, and major tropical cyclones are coming more often. This doesn’t stop the right from attempting to further equivocate and obfuscate this manifestation of climate change either.
Some of the 2020 Atlantic Storms
As much as we see that climate change is happening here and now, it’s also occurring across the globe. Witness the record heat and wildfires in Siberia, the Amazon, and Australia. The increase in intensity of tropical storms across the planet. The accelerating melting of the polar icecaps.
Those on the right would still like for you to believe that it isn’t happening, or that it isn’t so bad. Their fallback position is to tell you that burning fossil fuels is not to blame. That’s all a big lie. Our house is on fire. What should we do about it?