Littwin: As Hurricane Irma hits, how do you explain climate-change deniers to a 2-year-old? (column)
I have a 2-year-old grandson who is fascinated by, and a little afraid of, thunder and lightning. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, he usually says he has been dreaming about “tunder,” but if there’s a storm during the day, he wants us out on the front porch watching and talking about where storms come from and why lightning happens and why thunder follows. We read several books on the topic, his favorite of which involves “grumpy” and “happy” clouds. On the other hand, he’s also very much into weather radar.
This is a pretty normal human reaction. We want to understand things that frighten us so that we can feel safe. We used to put thunderstorms down to gods with thunderbolts, which is certainly no less primitive that those who think hurricanes are sent to punish a city for once having elected a lesbian mayor.
Now, fortunately, we have the science in front of us. We know how hurricanes form. And we know, crucially, that as the sea temperatures continue to rise, the chances are that storms will likely become ever stronger and more ferocious. We have some idea what it is we can do to reduce those chances.
Unless you’re, say, the man who runs the Environmental Protection Agency or the president of the United States or the Secretary of Energy or the governor of Florida or the governor of Texas, who happen to be climate deniers all.
Then, you don’t want to know. Or you say it’s unknowable. Or you say that you’re not a scientist, as if that means you must ignore the science in front of you. Or you say it’s up for debate and meanwhile there’s nothing to be done other than withdraw from international agreements on climate change and do away with regulations that limit the causes of climate change.
Or you quash research on, as they say at Scott Pruitt’s EPA, the “two C’s” — climate and change — while appointing a non-scientist to oversee which scientific research is approved for EPA grants. Or you remove climate data from your web site. Or, as Florida Gov. Rick Scott is alleged to have done, you direct state officials never to use the two C’s in consecutive order. (Scott denies that charge, making him both a climate-change denier and a climate-change-directive denier. What he also denies is that Florida is seen as the state most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.)
In fact, as Hurricane Irma follows Hurricane Harvey in bringing record-setting winds and/or rain, as two more hurricanes roil the Caribbean, as hundreds of thousands flee the vast and ferocious storm in Florida, as Houston and southeastern Texas begin the painful years of recovery, as more lives are expected to be lost, as many more billions of dollars in property damage will be recorded, as a nation is glued to the news in the hopes that it won’t be as deadly as we fear, the immediate reaction from the EPA’s Pruitt is that it’s the wrong time to discuss the issue of climate change, that’s it’s “insensitive” to Floridians and “opportunitistic” of those reporters who ask about it.
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