Albright: Stormy Weather

Aug 31, 2017

As tropical storm Harvey ravaged parts of Texas and Louisiana, it again became obvious - to me, at least - that the forces of nature don’t give a fig about political affiliations.

Liberals and conservatives were equally affected by record-breaking rainfall that turned landscapes into lakes, stranding and endangering just about everyone in its wake. And with memories of Tropical Storm Irene still fresh, I’m sure support, financial and otherwise, will pour into those devastated states from Vermonters lucky to be on high ground this time around.

But none of us is really untouched by this storm and the forces that caused it. The damage it’s done has mostly been driven by how slowly it’s moved, which, as scientists are now explaining, isn’t directly related to the warming of the planet. But research does show links between melting polar icecaps and permafrost, the rising temperature of ocean water, and the amount of moisture released into the atmosphere. Scientific data predict that storms like Harvey will surely strike again elsewhere.

There are maps that show who, in America, believes that climate change is real, and caused by human activity, and who does not. Yale University, among others, has been gathering those opinions.

The surveyors use the phrase “global warming” instead of “climate change,” which may skew results somewhat, but even given that wording, Yale’s public opinion map shows that across the United States, 70 percent of respondents believe that global warming is happening, and that it will harm future generations.

More specifically, a large majority of people along the Mexican border in southwestern Texas as well as along the Gulf Coast, where Harvey hit the hardest, appeared convinced in 2016 that the planet is heating up.

But some of their representatives in Washington are apparently out of step with those views. According to the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, 18 out of 38 Texas members of Congress, and three out of eight Louisiana members of Congress, deny that climate change exists. So it’ll be interesting to see if Harvey stirs up a second, political storm.

It’s one thing to vote for disaster assistance, but quite another to support attempts to mitigate future disasters by supporting initiatives like sustainable energy production – once the storm clouds clear and the sun comes out again.