Neil deGrasse Tyson is highly acclaimed astrophysicist and an outspoken critic of climate change deniers. In an interview with MSNBC, Tyson frankly explained why this isn’t just an “unlucky year” for deadly hurricanes. “Earth is pissed off,” he plainly stated. “When you warm the planet, the capacity of the air to retain water goes up.”
Tyson went on to explain that when there is more water stored in the air, there is a much higher susceptibility for extreme weather. The problem is that we are taking carbon out of the earth, burning it, and releasing it into the atmosphere, therefore warming the planet and increasing the air’s capacity to hold h2o. Tyson adds that even if we were to stop emitting carbon as soon as “tomorrow,” it will still take time for the oceans to cool because they are huge repositories for heat and carbon dioxide.
Basically what this acclaimed scholar asserted is that the science is settled. The earth is warming, humans are causing it by burning fossil fuels, and as a result we get obliterating hurricanes and tropical storms. Anyone that says otherwise is irresponsibly doing so out of their own political interests. In a video by the news company Vox, Carlos Maza gives us a few examples of what that looks like in the state of Florida, where hurricane Irma was hit the hardest.
He notes that cable news networks tend to blame “mother nature” for devastating hurricanes, when really the case is that “human choices [explain] why natural disasters end up being so catastrophic.” Maza points out that the “National Flood Insurance Program heavily subsidizes flood insurance,” therefore incentivizing developers to continue building onto hurricane-prone land. Additionally, in 2015 Florida Governor Rick Scott declared an unofficial rule that words such as climate change, global warming, and sustainability were to be forbidden from any official communications, emails or reports. Floridians should be dumbfounded if this man is reelected after hurricane Irma has annihilated the homes of his constituents in the face of his gross denial of climate change.
It’s time that all politicians, news anchors, and patriotic citizens in general accept the scientific consensus that global climate change is responsible for hurricanes like the ones we have already seen this year. Tyson warns us that failing to do so is the “unraveling of an informed democracy.” This isn’t politicizing the issue in the wake of these massive storms, it’s beginning to assess solutions to what is considered by many to be our country’s biggest threat to national security. And the storms are still coming -- hurricane Maria is blowing through the Atlantic Southeast as you read this article.
Together we as a nation must continue to challenge the idea that there are no steps we can take to prevent the extreme changes in climate and the extreme weather that it results in. Call your representatives, show up to vote, and stay scientifically informed.