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Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now Is The Time to Talk About Climate Change

Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now Is The Time to Talk About Climate Change.

Naomi Klein

Now is exactly the time to talk about climate change, and all the other systemic injustices — from racial profiling to economic austerity — that turn disasters like Harvey into human catastrophes.

Turn on the coverage of the Hurricane Harvey and the Houston flooding and you’ll hear lots of talk about how unprecedented this kind of rainfall is. How no one saw it coming so no one could adequately prepare.

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If global warming is now “feeding on itself”–it’s not clear at present if it is–this means that “runaway” is occurring now, and it will be impossible to stop. Even if “runaway” is NOT occurring now, the “head in the sand” approach of our “leaders” virtually guarantees that warming will continue UNTIL runaway begins. The “time to talk about climate change” was YESTERDAY!


It is important to realize this type of rain event is not that unusual in this part of Texas. In 2001 Tropical Storm Allison dumped about 35 inches of rain and killed over 20 people and did $5 billion of damage in the Houston area. Two decades earlier Claudette dropped 43 inches of rain but the area affected was fortunately not that populated. Given the recent history of these type of extreme weather event in east Texas it is difficult to relate to global warming. Certainly global warming must has some effect but the explanation for so much rain in this area would appear to be related to its location on the Gulf of Mexico.



Now is the time to TALK about climate change?


Forget more talk. What we need is a few hundred more position papers.

What we need is action: reduce carbon footprints, join a group that is emphasizing this, stop building on low lying areas and swamp lands, and stop populating so that other species ( which only have about 15% of their
former resources). Try not to make the car the central part of life. Become informed by actual scientists- not politicians. In the mean time, our thoughts are with the people of Texas and Louisiana. Let’s not forget those who were hit by the storm head on before the floods in Houston. If you can- inquire about the people and animals in this disaster, and see what else can be done.


Some of us were talking about this 30 years ago. And, I suspect, a significant percentage of us already do understand that we are seeing climate-change effects all around the globe. The failure of the MSM to discuss climate change can only be expected given the head-in-the-sand posturing of our ‘leaders’.

It’s true that the time for talk is over - only actions will make a difference. Knowing that makes it difficult for those of us who are ‘awake’ to talk about it either. We know that, in the absence of the political will to make those changes, we are left in the unenviable position of seeing it coming (already here) and having very little we can do to change the course.

Naomi is right about making this an opportunity to point out the obvious to the oblivious/greedy PTB. Not that they will listen this time either…


Knock it off, already, with the tiresome sophistry. Everyone knows there have always been floods in Texas - there’s even a corpus of great blues and country songs on the subject. However hard you keep trying, you cannot credibly maintain (contrary to prominent authorities) that the unprecedented nature of Harvey - the biggest rainfall in American history - is the slightest bit “difficult to relate” to a hotter gulf and a wetter atmosphere.

For crying out loud, the National Weather Service had to add “New Colors So It Can Map Harvey’s Rains.” If you can’t see that, it’s clear you’re willfully blind.


I think I read or heard on the radio from a climatologist who said it’s unwise to say climate change caused this disaster. It’s accurate though to say that global warming has influenced some of this event like providing warmer water, more flooding because of rising sea levels, etc. I think the comment by Lrx is in line with this kind of thinking, which seems okay to me.

Lrx was not merely refuting that global warming “caused” Harvey - he said that this type of rainfall (unprecedented rainfall?) is “difficult to relate” to global warming. It’s damn close to denialism to assert that global warming’s role in the scale of Harvey is anything else besides beyond question.

There’s long been semantic confusion with the concept of cause. Because of the way that word molds our thinking, we expect to assign a unary cause to every effect - when the way nature works is that causes can never be whittled down to only one. For instance, the ongoing demise of marine life is not caused (in that unary sense) by pollution, overfishing, eutrophication, acidification, or warming - but by the deadly synergy of all of these, and more.


I think global warming has made this storm worse than it would have been otherwise. But even without global warming it certainly seems like it would have been catastrophic because it stalled for several day as there was no system pushing it out of the area. I would not conclude that is is catastrophic because of global warming but only it is more catastrophic because of global warming. What is going in the polar regions is a product global warming much more than a storm like this. The extent of ice melting and permafrost thawing it very scary and has extremely serious consequences for the entire planet. Anyone following what is going in the polar regions should realize that this is emergency situation. Drastic reductions in emissions are needed.

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As I noted in my comment about I think the strongest evidence that global warming is having extremely serious effects is in the polar regions. Personally I think emissions can be reduced without changes to private enterprise. In the US the biggest obstacle to avoiding disaster from climate change is the Republican Party. If the country could pull together in dealing with global warming far more could be done. As long as most Republicans keep lying about climate change this country’s efforts will be severely hampered. Democrats receive campaign contributions from many of the same corporations as the Republicans yet the Democrats are being truthful and are sounding the alarm. So there must be something going on beyond the influence of corporations. Somehow the Republicans have found they do better in elections by denying reality and lying. It all adds up to the conclusion that a disaster on a global scale in on the way.

“No reputable scientist has claimed that there is a correlation” demonstrates you do not know what you’re talking about and are trying to make climate change purely a political issue. There is never proof but only correlation, and there are tons of correlational studies by scientists, whom are not reputable only to Trump minions like yourself.


Harvey grew from a little-noticed tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane with unprecedented speed, mainly because gulf waters are warmer than ever. There’s no basis for your further assertion that Harvey “would have been catastrophic” anyway. Without the power-surge global warming gave it, we quite possibly may have never heard of Harvey.

But what is the point of your hair-splitting conclusion anyhow? Not “catastrophic because” only “more catastrophic because”? Please, give it a rest.


Well you’re wrong.Very few people deny global warming exists; it has now devolved into an argument if human beings exacerbated it. No one is claiming that global warming causes more hurricanes. Scientists claim that global warming affects the severity of storms, not their frequency.

Over at the NOAA, scientists have claimed a correlation while also saying that other factors are at play, which make it difficult to come to a verifiable conclusion about the impacts of global warming on storms. Not enough past data exists and data on human based interference, which is still being gathered, is not significant enough yet to make the definitive case. They do point to climate modeling and conclude that by the end of the 21st century storms in the Gulf will indeed be far more potent because of global warming.


Disbelief in global warming is a purely political position. If you can’t believe what scientists and Mother Nature is telling you, then you have made a decision to not participate in addressing the most serious issue of our time, which affects every avenue of life.


Sorry, LRX, but as a civil engineer with training in hydrology, I can assure you that this IS not only unusual, but probably unprecedented going back thousands of years. The theoretical, 72-hour probable maximum precipitation (PMP) storm over a 200 sq. mi area in the Houston area is 48 inches. The PMP is not statistical, but represents the maximum physically possible precipitation event - and the likelihood of approaching 80 percent of the PMP is very remote (on the order of thousands of years). Some local 200 sq. mile area likely got up to 40 inches in the first 72 hours, which is closer to a PMP than has ever been seen in the US.


I think you need another pair of scare quotes around that word “politicize” (isn’t it spelled “politicise” up you way?), Naomi. Can someone name ANY other scientifically-established concept that is considered “political” the way AGW is in the backward, illiterate USA (with the possible exception of evolution of species down in the bible belt)? Science is not politics!

If you think about it, the underlying cause of our interrelated physical and environmental illness or dysfunction can be traced to the corruption of money, which feeds into the biology of our culture. Since before the Civil War a growing oligarchy has steadily promoted economic liberty of the few over political democracy. Using every trick in the book to reduce the influence of the many on government, which is mapped out in “Democracy in Cains…” by Nancy MacLean, neoliberalism or Libitarianism has largely completed a corporate coup.

It seems to me, given the ubiquitous toxicity of money, that a good place to start in cleaning up this mess would be for everyone to focus on cleaning up our electoral process, the voter suppression, cross check, voting machines, etc. That’s where the log jam is, which is holding back the possibility of democratic governance. If people can vote and if there votes count: the people win; if not, our planet will continue to sicken. Climate change and the rise of chronic illness are linked to the voting process, as is nearly everything thing else. In the medical field its called disease management for profit.

I totally agree. Although climate change and oceans rising are intensifying extreme weather, for Gulf States and the lower East Coast, hurricane and heavy rains HAPPEN. If you build on a swamp, swampiness will not go away by covering it with concrete.Locals from Florida to Mexico know this. Flood control involves more dams, city planning, better drainage. Mass transit is needed.Think The Netherlands. In the case of low areas, um, move away.

Of course we won’t think about what a sustainable human population of Planet A might be
…and of course, we won’t solve anything … but USA MIC Profits are still terrific.

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Weather and climate are two separate things. The weather is a chaotic (nonlinear) system governed by the butterfly effect: the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in the Amazon can cause a hurricane in the Atlantic. The weather is totally unpredictable more than a few weeks into the future. The best example of this is Hurricane Rita. Rita entered the Gulf of Mexico a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. Just 5 days before Rita (a more powerful storm than Katrina) made landfall, all the sophisticated mathematical models of the National Weather Service predicted Rita would destroy Houston. Does anybody remember Houston being destroyed that summer.

Climate is very predictable because it is not chaotic. Because the earth’s axis is inclined by about 23 degrees we know that the climate in the winter will be colder than the climate in the summer. Because the temperature of the earth is determined by the law of conservation of energy and that greenhouse gases are opaque to infrared radiation, we know that if the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere increases the earth will necessarily warm. Therefore, just as we knew an eclipse of the sun would happen at 1 PM on Aug 21 in Lincoln, NE, we know that as humans burn fossil fuels, the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will cause the earth to warm,

But you cannot use chaotic weather events to predict anything about the future climate.