Massive, record-setting hurricanes have walloped Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and several Caribbean islands in recent weeks, causing untold damage from wind, rain and intense flooding. Puerto Rico is in ruins, as more than 3.5 million people fight for their physical and economic survival. Are we beginning to reach a point where we might not be able to recover from a weather-related catastrophe?
Considering the ferocious strength of these storms, is climate change a factor and, if so, what can we do about it? “Nothing!” says President Trump and Scott Pruitt, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency director. According to Trump, Pruitt and the Republican Party, climate change theory is unsettled. To them, there is no proof of causality.
Over the last decade, to promote its agenda, the Republican Party has selectively chosen one scientific result or another to support the cultural, political, economic, and religious philosophy it espouses. They cherry-pick one or two scientific papers, out of thousands, and force-feed the material over and over again to the press and anyone else willing to listen. But for scientific fact to become an objective truth (unquestionably true, whether you believe it or not), it requires more than one or two scientific papers. It demands a systemic structure of research, all leaning in absolutely the same direction, and all pointing to the same conclusions.
Climate change is brought on by human conduct. This is a known fact, concluded by 99 percent of scientific research papers. For Donald Trump and the Republican Party to reference the 1 percent of papers that conflict with this conclusion and then build policy on that is incredibly irresponsible.
Scientific truth is established by looking at the consensus of scientific experiments and scientific observations. In 1863, as a result of an act of Congress, our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, established the National Academy of Sciences, which was hailed as a great step forward in government recognition of the role of science in American society. Lincoln knew that science mattered and should significantly influence governance.
We nourish ourselves and heal ourselves on the basis of science; we build on the basis of science; we look beyond ourselves on the basis of science.
Settled science comes out of large bodies of research that the vast majority agrees on. Scientists argue, but not about settled science that appears in our textbooks. Scientists fight over what is not yet known— that is the natural course of science. But a specific body of knowledge accumulated over decades should be the standard that precedes policy and legislation. This should be guiding principle for the Trump Administration and the Republican-led Congress.
Fifty inches of rain in Houston. A hurricane the width of Florida. Two fatal storms within a two-week period in Puerto Rico. This is not purely happenstance.
What will it take for Republicans to recognize that a community of scientists has stated an objective truth about the natural world? There are fewer deaths per hurricane. Why? Because we know about them weeks in advance. We now have scientific models that predict trajectories.
We know that the human activity of carbon production is causing climate change and the warming of the earth. And the warming of the oceans is triggering colossal storms. The United States contributes the most, by far, to global warming. Republicans, choosing which science to believe—for purely economic reasons—is deeply troubling.
I didn’t grow up in a country where scientific misinformation was a common phenomenon. I watched as we went to the moon and transplanted hearts, and knew that science and technology birthed these accomplishments. But today, we’ve got politicians arguing about whether science is true. And nothing will get done to protect our future. Nothing! Are we looking at the end of an informed democracy?
Our greatest cities—centers of commerce and transportation—are on the oceans’ edges. As oceans and waterways rise, these cities will be the first to go. We cannot pick up a city and move it inland 20 miles.
Climate change is happening way faster than we could have imagined. The economic and human consequences will be huge. The longer we delay accepting this scientific fact and responding responsibly to it, the less chance we’ll be able weather these storms.