Politicizing disaster

Good points made here, and in the original article linked to. I’d like to add a couple of things.

One really frustrating thing for me is that the general public doesn’t understand how statistics and probability works. It is absolutely true that we can not link *this one particular flood* directly to climate change. It’s possible it could have happened without it.

But climate change is probably making extreme weather events (both droughts and floods) more frequent and more likely. A few years ago in New Braunfels they had a “100 year flood” that wiped out several homes. They rebuilt the homes, and 3 years later they had another 100 year flood that wiped them out again. After that, the city didn’t let them build any more homes in that area and turned it into parkland.

A “100 year flood” means that, on average, the river should flood that badly every 100 years. It doesn’t mean that on the dot, like clockwork, it floods there exactly every 100 years. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible to have two 100 year floods only 3 years apart without climate change. But the odds of that happening should be low. Low enough for you to go “hmm, that’s weird.”

The thing is a lot of these weird, unlikely events have been happening lately. If this was a casino, you’d start to think things are rigged. Too many unlikely events are happening all at once. We just had our worst drought in modern history. When the interstate highway system was built, I’m sure they got a lot of scientists and engineers to look at the records for the Blanco River and build the bridge over it (where the interstate links two of the major cities of Texas) high enough to make sure it would never flood. But on May 24, 2015, the bridge was underwater. That’s weird. It’s probably why some of my fellow scientists like to call it “global weirdening.”

Besides, even if this stuff wasn’t caused by global warming, reducing our use of fossil fuels is a good idea anyway for all kinds of other reasons. It’s like a comic I once saw: “What if we all did the right thing when we didn’t really have to?” That’s what the global warming deniers sound like to me. Anything to defend the current status quo of trying to suck as much fossil fuel out of the ground and burn it up as fast as possible.

Rebalancing Acts

A lot of very good points made in Here’s why we need to politicize disasters, over on Grist (which begins with a brief summary of the immense flooding Texas, and nearby areas, has experienced recently):

Unsurprisingly, not everyone has responded well to the attempts to link the floods to climate change. At a press conference this week, Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has a long history of casting aspersions on climate change science, said, “At a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster. And so there’s plenty of time to talk about other issues. I think the focus now is on caring for those who have lost their lives and lost their homes.”

According to Cruz, there’s a time and a place for people to talk about climate change and disasters, but that is sometime in…

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