The rains that accompanied this summer’s Hurricane Harvey were around 15% more extreme than they would have been without the amplifying effects of anthropogenic climate change, according to a new study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Hurricane Harvey, for those who don’t remember, poured over 50 inches (127 cm) of rain on some parts of Houston, Texas over a period of just a day or two. Flooding throughout large parts of coastal Texas and Louisiana was extreme — to put it mildly — and damage totaled around $200 billion.
The new study also found that “such historic rains are 3 times more common along the Gulf of Mexico coast than they were a century ago,” as Reuters put it.
That coverage continued: “The likelihood of another storm on the same scale is about once in 100 years, compared with once in 160 years without global warming, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the study’s lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“To measure the impact of climate change, the researchers used a technique known as event attribution, which has become more effective due to advances in computing power. The process involves a network of computers comparing weather scenarios with and without climate change, using an array of models with historic climate data.
“The study shows the need to plan reconstruction with more extreme rains and flooding in mind, said study co-author Antonia Sebastian, a postdoctoral researcher at Rice University in Houston.
“Our hazards are changing over time,” she stated. “We should be considering those changes in the design of our infrastructure.”
Perhaps. But lack of research wasn’t the issue in this case — there had been endless warnings in recent years about the overdevelopment and over-paving of the swamp that is now Houston. The issue was that nothing was done to limit the damage being done despite the warnings.
That was the case with regard to the extreme flooding and damage accompanying Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as well; and has also been the case with regard to plastics pollution, various forms of chemicals pollution, the siting of nuclear power plants on coasts that are known to experience tsunamis…climate change, deforestation, habitat protection to guard against species extinctions, etc.
Necessary knowledge has for the most part (eventually) been present, the issue is that effective action hasn’t followed.
And the reason for that is obvious — to truly accomplish something, means to do without in many cases; to use less; to grow slower (or not at all); to place limits on human desires and entitlements, and to place the future on an equal footing with the present.
Which — despite claims made to the contrary by people who choose to ignore the lessons of history — is something that a great many societies throughout time, and all around the world have actually done. The societies in question being the “traditional” ones that so many people now use as caricatures when attempting to glorify the “anything goes” attitude of modern culture.
If something effective is to be done to limit anthropogenic climate change, and thus to limit the growing intensity of the destroyer of earlier human iterations known as Huracán (often as referred to as “Heart of Sky”), then an attitude of valuing the future and embracing responsibility and stewardship will be necessary.
But never mind. YOLO! (“You only live once” — as the young people say when justifying narcissistic behavior).