When asked if there will be more rain associated with a given hurricane in the future, Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, said: “ that is not a hard question to answer… the answer is yes”. She continued “Hurricane Harvey was a perfect storm of flood risk due to the obsolete assumption that we have a stable climate.” We don’t!
Environmental scientists have been warning us of this growing climate warming crisis for decades. Those warnings were not based on their personal beliefs, they were warnings basing on actual global temperature measurements and physics.
Our atmosphere is warming, and that atmospheric warming is warming our oceans. When those two combine, the result is more moisture in the atmosphere.
(Picture a pot of water boiling on the stove. In a very cold room, the steam remains visible because the water can’t evaporate in the cold air. In a hot room, that same steam would almost immediately become invisible because it would quickly evaporate into the air.)
Our scientists have been trying to tell us for years that the future isn’t what it used to be. Our scientists knew that storm intensification was coming because physics does not function based on beliefs, it functions on physical scientific laws. They knew our atmosphere was warming because they measured it. They knew our warmer atmosphere was warming our ocean waters. They measured it. They knew our storms were going to become more violent. They knew those warmer oceans would feed more moisture into our increasingly warming atmosphere. They knew the higher moisture content being held in our atmosphere would create more rain and more energy in any given storm. How did they know? Because it’s basic physics.
The Realities We’ve Chosen To Ignore
Unfortunately, we chose to ignore those warnings from our environmental scientists because they interfered with our own personal beliefs. Isaac Asimov once said… there is a thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means… my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.
As I’ve written in previous Nuggets, rigid ideological beliefs shut down our ability to grow and take in new information.
They are the primary cause of intentional ignorance.
The facts our scientists have been telling us about are measurable facts, not hypothetical opinions. We knew the atmosphere, and the ocean waters were warming. We knew the physics. Therefore we knew that any given storm was going to be more violent and contain more water than storms in the past. We simply chose to stick with our beliefs and opinions. We call that tendency cognitive dissonance. It simply means we prefer to stick with our personal opinions and beliefs when facts challenge or disagree with them. In other words, we are assuming that our ignorance is just as good as their knowledge.
Our scientists have been warning us for several decades that we are not prepared for these more violent storms. We chose to ignore those warning because they interfered with our own personal beliefs. We were brain washed by the global warming deniers who were quietly financed by the petroleum industry. As a result, we have failed to:
- adopt tougher building codes,
- put in place controls on urban population growth in our coastal cities,
- reduce the number of poor living in those cities,
- aggressively replace petroleum energy with renewable green energy,
- increase the availability of public transportation,
- reduce human population in high-risk areas of our coastal cities,
- replace our greed based capitalistic economic system,
- increase the localization of food and energy sources,
- support the growth of more small farms,
- reduce our carbon foot print,
- reduce our meat consumption,
- hold our leaders and politicians responsible for the choices they made because they were being financed by the petroleum industry,
- eliminate the corporate farming practices that are rapidly destroying our healthy top soil, or
- adequately prepare for the storms and crises we knew were coming.
These are only a few of the many critical changes and challenges that we have chosen to ignore… choices and lack of choices that are going to create pain and suffering for us and future generations… choices and lack of choices that are going to create unknown crises and challenges for us in the years to come. These are measurable facts that the scientists have been frantically attempting to warn us about.
Every Choice, Or Lack Of Choice, Will Always Create A Consequence Or Outcome
The challenges listed above that we chose to ignore… were our choices. And now we have to accept full responsibility for the consequences of those choices. We will, of course, be tempted to blame others for the consequences and the suffering created by storms like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, but that would simply be another form of intentional ignorance; our unwillingness to take in new data and evolve our thinking.
As a parent, I taught my children that every choice they make or fail to make, will always create a consequence. That is a fundamental law of the universe. I also taught them to take full responsibility for those consequences. As hard as it was to watch them struggle from time to time with those inevitable consequences, I never got in the way of their consequences because I knew it would interfere with their ability to learn from their choices. I offered compassion, but I always honored their ability to accept full responsibility and grow from the experience.
The Important Conclusion Of This Article
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have created an enormous amount of pain and suffering for a lot of people. People who will need a lot of support as they struggle to put their lives back together. We need to offer them compassionate help as they work to put their lives back together. Now is not the time for lectures or conversation about the reality of global warming. We simply need to honor them in their grief, and their struggles to recover… and allow them the dignity to learn from the choices they made; and the choices they failed to make. I have no doubt they will grow and learn from the experience. Over time they may even become our teachers as we too will be called to struggle to overcome our own rigid beliefs and learn to take responsibility for our choices… or our own lack of choice.
I am certain that we too will have the opportunity to learn from their experience in the months and years ahead. Global climate change will not be confined to just coastal cities. We will experience more devastating forest fires. The starvation and dislocation of so many due to droughts will continue to grow. The tens of thousands who have already lost everything due to coastal storms around the world represent only the front edge of the pain and suffering that global climate change and climate intensification will create as our atmosphere continues to warm. And these extreme weather events will continue to intensify whether or not we think global warming is human caused.
In other words, I believe we too will be given the opportunity to experience the impact of climate change. Nature does not make distinctions between the poor and the wealthy, or between those who live in coastal cities and those who live inland. We will all get our opportunity to experience the impact of global climate change. We too will experience the pain and grief that comes when life, as we know it, has begun to fall apart. We too will get to experience the power of friends and strangers quietly standing with us and helping us as we struggle to put our lives back together.
Harvey and Irma are only the first of what I suspect will be other “Harvey” and “Irma” category four and five storms. Hurricane Irma is gathering strength as I write this article. Her winds are predicted to be stronger than the winds in Hurricane Harvey. And there will be more storms because global warming will continue putting increasing levels of moisture in our atmosphere and our ocean waters for many years; even after we make the difficult choices required to reverse global warming.
If we are willing to take full responsibility for the consequences created by those coming storms they will support our learning. They will enable us to learn what we need to learn… so we can make better choices and decisions in the future. We are humans. We can learn. We can evolve our individual and collective consciousness. We can learn from past mistakes.
Whether or not global warming is human caused will be determined in the years to come. In the meantime, the atmosphere is warming, and we need to start preparing for the future… because that future isn’t what it used to be! and we might well be running out of time.
Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and the increased energy in the storms, floods, heat waves, fires, and droughts that are coming… will help us evolve and create that better future we all would like to experience. Our core values, and our dreams for the future we want to create, will help guide us toward that future… even though that future isn’t what it used to be.
That’s assuming, of course, that we have the courage and wisdom to learn by assuming full responsibility for the choices and decisions we will make, or not make, as we move into that future.
In the words of Simon Templar, one of my all-time favorite fictional characters when he was asked: “How do you prepare for the future”? His response was simple. He said… “I prepare for the unexpected by expecting everything”!
What is certain in the years ahead… is the simple reality that a sustainable future for humanity will not look like it used to. Our seas are rising, coastal storm surges are increasing, and global warming is increasing the amount of water and energy driving the storms we are experiencing around the world. The future our children and grandchildren will live in, whether sustainable or not, will look very different from the world we, and past generations, experienced.
A good definition of disaster… is lack of preparation.
We need to stop arguing whether climate change and global warming are real or not, and whether it’s human caused or not… and begin preparing for the unexpected by expecting everything… while we still have time.
Our ignorance is not as good as their knowledge.