The Clean Water Blog

Hurricane Harvey, image via NOAA

That tweet.

I have something to say about that Donald Trump tweet from last Wednesday. No, not the violent video retweets, some based on lies, from a far-right account. And no, not the tweets where he seemed to accuse of a journalist he doesn’t like of murder.

I mean this tweet:

A tweet from @realDonaldTrump

Here’s my problem with it: the thought that you can separate out “hurricane effects” and only look at the rest of the economy.

Stronger hurricanes are not isolated events. They are a trend that is clearly being influenced by climate change.

This is happening in at least three ways:

  • Hurricanes and tropical storms are fueled by warm water. The warmer the water in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico is, the more severe a hurricane or storm will be.
  • Sea levels are already rising. Storm surge is often the most deadly and destructive aspect of a hurricane. And when you start with higher sea levels to begin with, the effects of the surge are even worse.
  • Rainfalls are getting worse. There a few climate factors contributing to this. One is that warmer air can hold more water. Another is that climate change is beginning to slow down wind patterns. That means that weather events are moving more slowly, and extreme weather events – like drought, heat, and storms – are lingering longer in one place, exacerbating the effects. This is one reason why Hurricane Harvey had record levels of rainfall – it was staying in pretty much one place with its outer edge over the warm Gulf waters, refueling the storm while it hovered over the Houston area.

Stronger hurricanes mean more destruction. And that means increased costs – to homeowners, to cities, and to our entire economy. As the Trump Administration ceases action to fight climate change, there is no doubt that costs to our economy from extreme weather events will rise. It is dishonest to set these costs aside and look at the rest of the economy.

And these costs are huge. The costs for recovery from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are estimated to be $290 billion. More than a quarter of a trillion dollars, and that doesn’t even include recovery for Hurricane Maria which devastated Puerto Rico. 

There may very well be costs associated with a widespread transition to clean, renewable energy. But those costs must be weighed against both the savings they’ll produce in the long run (ie. consumer savings on cheaper forms of energy) and against the extreme costs we’ll all be on the hook for should we continue to fail to act on climate change.