Hurricane Harvey is a climate disaster. In response to Hurricane Harvey, we want to share an email we received earlier this week from our friends at 350.org. (Sorry for the delay):
“Hurricane Harvey is an unnatural disaster. The situation unfolding on Texas’ Gulf Coast is unlike anything else in history… Over 6 million people are being affected by this storm. This is a crucial moment to support the people impacted — here are two places you can donate:
To donate to an alliance of progressive organizations that will be advocating directly for people impacted hardest by the storm, click here.
Here’s how climate change contributed to Harvey’s enormous, unnatural impacts:
- Rising sea levels. Oceans have risen by more than a foot since 1960 in the Texas Gulf Coast. That’s one more foot of storm surge that washed into homes and communities when Harvey made landfall.
- A warmer ocean means more rain. The Gulf of Mexico was anywhere from 2 to 7 degrees hotter than usual before Harvey — well above 80 degrees in total. That means more water evaporated into the storm, and more rain dumped on people on shore.
- A warmer ocean also means stronger storms. Harvey rapidly intensified from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane with winds above 135 miles an hour in just 48 hours. A hotter planet and a hotter ocean make this rare rapid intensification event more likely.
Denying climate science makes you unprepared for climate disasters… [Here’s how Harvey is turning into an] environmental disaster:
- Deregulating Big Oil’s toxic pollution. An environmental justice organizer with TEJAS, Bryan Parras, has reported strong, burning chemical smells coming from the refineries and chemical plants in East Houston. The Trump administration is rolling back regulations on Big Oil’s pollution, and wants to eliminate the EPA office of Environmental Justice. These are the rules meant to protect vulnerable communities on the fenceline of huge oil refineries like the ones under siege in Texas right now.
- Cutting off immigrant communities. The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement kept running deportation checkpoints in South Texas in the leadup to the storm, trapping undocumented immigrants looking for safety from Harvey’s destruction. ICE’s aggressive policing in immigrant communities in Texas has created a culture of fear that kept many families from seeking shelter in government facilities.
- Building in the path of the storm. Just last week Trump signed an executive order instructing the federal government to ignore climate change when constructing new infrastructure projects [countering Obama’s original executive order instructing that it be considered]. That means he will be putting more Americans in the path of flooding like what we’re seeing now in Texas. [As of today, due to Harvey, the Trump administration is revisiting supporting the consideration of flooding and rising seas with new infrastructure, and may restore portions of the original executive order.]
Rains and flooding from Harvey are expected to continue for days to come. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the communities facing this storm right now. Many people will be rebuilding for years to come.
Climate change is real. The people hit the hardest are often poor, people of color, or otherwise vulnerable communities. Climate change is also a choice, one that the fossil fuel industry makes over and over again, despite the consequences for people all over the world. The suffering caused by Harvey is enormous, and the time for action is now.