Chris Cuomo, the amateur climatologist and brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, discussed Hurricane Harvey on his CNN show this week. Cuomo suggested that human emissions of carbon dioxide may be "why these storms happen."
We know cable news suffers from a short attention span, so we'd like to suggest Cuomo take time over the long weekend to read up on hurricanes that occurred even before the Industrial Revolution.
But Cuomo also clearly needs to read some of the scientific literature on weather and climate. He suggested that if the White House focussed on climate policy, "we could figure out a way to reduce the number of these storms."
No serious person believes that climate policy could bring us into a brave new world of fewer hurricanes. And if the number of large hurricanes we get is determined by policy, Trump ought to do whatever George W. Bush did in 2006 that put the brakes on powerful hurricanes for a decade.
Cuomo, packaging his faux science and total lack of historical context together with an ideological smugness, is typical of left-leaning politicians and journalists in the media these days.
Liberals have been crying wolf on this issue for more than a decade. "A link between climate change and more destructive hurricanes hints at the real-world impacts of this administration's refusal to get serious about tackling the threat of global warming," Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in October 2006. "It's hard to think of a louder wake-up call than the destruction left in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita."
Former Vice President Al Gore used a satellite photograph of Hurricane Katrina to illustrate the poster for his 2006 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," and the movie all but asserted that global warming would produce more Katrinas.
In the decade-plus since the movie came out, only 10 hurricanes have made landfall on the U.S. Every decade on record, going back to the 1850s, had more hurricanes than 10.
Earlier this month, Gore said, "As the oceans get warmer, these ocean based storms get a lot stronger. ... There may not be more hurricanes, but the ones that do come are on average likely to be much stronger."
And yet, Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane (category three or stronger) to make landfall in the continental United States in 142 months.
That's almost 12 years. The last major hurricane to make landfall was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. Even granting that the climate is warming and that this (like any disruption to a large complex system) could have bad effects, evidence is scant showing an increase in dangerous hurricanes harming the U.S.
Which brings to mind an important point: Weather is not climate.
Don't believe us? Just ask liberal lion Neil deGrasse Tyson. "Weather is what the atmosphere does in the short-term, hour-to-hour, day-to-day. … Climate is the long-term average of the weather over a number of years."
Republicans and Democrats alike should take that fact to heart. Below-zero temperatures in February in Washington, D.C., (sorry, Sen. Jim Inhofe) or heat above 100 degrees in Dallas in August do not definitively disprove or prove global warming is happening.
Likewise, one single hurricane is not evidence of global warming's effects.
The Left is also blaming the flooding on Houston's lack of zoning regulations. "Houston Is Drowning — In Its Freedom From Regulations," was the headline of a Slate article on this theme.
This is grounded in an almost magical faith in the power of government to prevent evils.
"If Harvey happened in 1850 instead of today," historian Phil Magness wrote in an important corrective to this magical thinking, "the results would be nearly identical in terms of land flooded ... No zoning law or ban on parking lot construction would ever have ‘fixed' anything about that."
This cut against the argument that much of the flood water would have been absorbed by prairies if development was more constricted.
Mike Talbott, former director of the Harris County Flood Control District, attacked the prairie-sponge idea after Hurricane Rita, as pointed out this week by Scott Beyer at Forbes: "The claim, [Talbott] said, that 'these magic sponges out in the prairie would have absorbed all that water is absurd.'"
Hurricane Harvey is weather, not some demon summoned by Americans' love of burning fossil fuels. The flooding is a freak occurrence in a city built on a bay.
The liberals are at least being consistent here: Just as they put far too much faith in man to fix the world, they put far too much blame on man when nature delivers a lashing.