“Hurricane Harvey is abrupt climate change. And it shows collapse of the atmosphere and ecosystems that threatens to destroy the biosphere and end being… Texas’ war against science and the natural world must draw to an end. Like waking up after a long drinking binge, it is time for Texans to sober up and accept their living large – as if the land, water, and air have no value – has brought them to the edge of utter ruin.” — Dr. Glen Barry
After 25 years of writing regarding looming abrupt climate change and biosphere collapse, nonetheless I find no succor that my predictions have come true with Hurricane Harvey. Firstly, my heart-felt sympathy goes out to the hardy Texans who continue to weather nature’s wrath on the Gulf Coast. I have had the fortune to spend some time in Port Aransas and Rockport areas visiting family and it is a beautiful spot full of warm, generous people.
However, let there be no mistake (now comes the “tough love” part). Hurricane Harvey is a man-made disaster that has directly resulted from Texans’ oil addiction, anti-science denial, disdain for common sense regulations, and super-sized lifestyles.
So where did all that rain come from anyway? It’s global warming stupid.
The basics of climate science have been known for 100 years. Simply, what has occurred in the Gulf of Mexico with Hurricane Harvey is all about heat, which is growing because of fossil fuel emissions (the greenhouse gases that are released trap heat), including by Texans. Since 1970 the average temperature in the South has risen 3.3° F. Galveston Texas set a shocking 33 record temperatures since Nov. 1st of last year. Across Texas temperatures have been averaging 10° F warmer than usual.
At its most basic level, this warmed air holds more water, making possible Hurricane Harvey’s 52 inches of rain in areas around Houston. Warming oceans expand in volume and melting ice combine to raise sea levels. In just the past 50 years, Galveston Texas’ local sea level has risen by 12.5 inches, resulting in coastal erosion and more powerful storm surges. On average storm surges are 7 inches taller due to global warming.
It’s global warming stupid
Gulf of Mexico waters are much warmer than usual and rarely cool down, feeding hurricanes. The average sea surface temperature of the Texan Gulf Coast has risen from 86° F to 87° F over a few decades. As Harvey approached the Texas coast, Gulf ocean temperatures were between 2.7° F to 7.2° F above average. This past winter for the first time the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73° F. Each degree of heat results in 3-5% more moisture in the air. Add to this a diminished Jet Stream and other high level winds that are no longer blowing (likely due to Arctic melting), and you have storms that linger in one location like Harvey did.
The science is rock solid that we are transforming the Earth in ways that increase the likelihood of extreme storms and may even make the environment uninhabitable. Climate change is but one (albeit deadly in its own right) of several human caused environmental crises that threaten to destroy our one shared biosphere. You can either believe in science or in ghosts in the sky. If you choose solely the latter you open yourselves up to avoidable cataclysmic devastation.
Any further climate change denial of the sort prevalent in Texas, and refusal to change behaviors to pollute far less, is a willful death wish. Not only for Texans, but also for South Asia and other areas being hammered by the same oil fueled forces of abrupt climate change.
Frankly, often Texans are egotistical to the point of being naively cocksure (i.e. what sort of motto is “Don’t Mess with Texas”). Many are uneducated and don’t understand the world around them, and are proudly boastful of the fact.
For generations Texans have over-built wherever their hearts desired. Floodplains, wetlands, riverbanks, coast lines, amidst chemical plants – there was no regulation to their sprawl – because they are god’s chosen people. And regulations are for commie pinkos.
Since 1866 Texans have pumped the remains of dead creatures to the surface to be burned for transport and heat. Nearly 3.5 million barrels of crude oil are produced a day in Texas. Further, Texas is a leader in industrial animal agriculture – particularly cattle – which occupies much land and emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases. This polluting resource gluttony is the engine behind a warming world and makes Texans directly responsible for their own suffering from Hurricane Harvey.
Texans – in the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey, have reaped what they have sown – disruption of the natural world. From oil to cattle, urban sprawl to anti-intellectualism, very few if any regions globally have as much historical responsibility for abrupt climate change as Texas. It is fitting that the Houston/Beaumont area, where oil was first produced commercially some 150 years ago, has been devastated by abrupt climate change.
Texas oil fueled Hurricane Harvey.
As SCIENCE (a method of logical examination that seeks truth) identified that burning fossil fuels was warming the atmosphere, Texans doubled down, not only denying but also willfully obstructing the truth. For decades Texas politicians and oil companies have lied and obfuscated the truth in order to eke out a few more years of profits from deadly fossil fuels.
Disregarding established science has consequences, as those along the Texas Gulf Coast have come to realize.
And as for that Texas economic miracle? It is not too hard to create an artificial boom economy based upon ecocidal destruction of nature and the atmosphere. But when the bubble bursts and the boom ends, and you are left in desolate flooded or parched ecosystems, death comes swiftly from the storm.
Hurricane Harvey is either the end or the beginning
Hurricane Harvey is abrupt climate change. And it shows collapse of the atmosphere and ecosystems that threatens to destroy the biosphere and end being.
It doesn’t have to end this way. Texans can strive for a dose of humility as they go cap in hand to ask the rest of the nation to bail them out (as they have refused so often to do for others). Texans are always for small government until they need help. Yet there should be no funds unless the Texas mess – lack of regulation, oil dependency, urban sprawl, and anti-science denial – is addressed. This includes commitments to dramatically cut and soon end emissions from Texas oil.
Meaningful recovery in Texas will require pulling back from the coasts, restoring natural river ways, wetlands, and floodplains; and otherwise REGULATING development. Once again ecosystems must surround human endeavors in order to provide services such as absorbing rainwater. In a world whose climate is abruptly changing, Texans are called upon to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and exclusively towards renewable energy – both wind and sun are plentiful.
We must come together and declare climate peace by ushering in an age of ecological restoration.
And let’s start teaching science again in Texas before their prevalent anti-science hate kills us all.
Texas’ war against science and the natural world must draw to an end. Like waking up after a long drinking binge, it is time for Texans to sober up and accept their living large – as if the land, water, and air have no value – has brought them to the edge of utter ruin.
Hurricane Harvey was fueled by Texas oil. Until this truth is acknowledged and responded to, there will be no recovery along the Texan Gulf Coast, and the situation there portends the fate of all of humanity.