Before we get to the increasingly disturbing situation on the ground following Hurricane Irma in Florida and elsewhere — and why that storm and Harvey before it were so terrible in the first place — a few news items of note today. First up: Democrats took over two different state legislative seats in special elections wins on Tuesday, one in Oklahoma and one in New Hampshire. Both races were in districts that Trump won by very large margins last November. The victories for Dems — including huge reported vote swings from R to D — are of a piece with a series of other special elections held so far this year, including four in Oklahoma alone.
In, yes, related news, former President Jimmy Carter offered some noteworthy statements on North Korea that President Donald Trump may wish to notice, and also some words about worldwide democracy and the need for public oversight of ballot counting.
In the meantime, following some wildly misleading claims about stolen elections and "voter fraud" in New Hampshire from Kris Kobach, the vice-chair of Trump's so-called "Election Integrity" Commission and Sec. of State of Kansas, panelists and members of his own commission, including NH's own Sec. of State, blasted the GOP "voter fraud" fraudster, to his face, during the Commission's second public meeting, held on Tuesday in…NH!
While Republicans are very quick to use even the most sketchy threads of "evidence" they can possibly discover to claim that our democracy has fallen victim to a massive Democratic "voter fraud" conspiracy — and that we must take radical steps to prevent it, even if it means millions of our fellow citizens lose their RIGHT to vote — there is, apparently, a very different standard for "evidence" when it comes to climate change. On that, decades of peer-reviewed evidence and tens of thousands of studies don't seem to do the trick, for some reason. That evidence, is simply dismissed by the GOP's fossil fuel-funded cronies. Now it's costing the US — and the planet — bigly.
After an update on the death toll and deteriorating conditions in some parts of Florida following Hurricane Irma, we're joined by Penn State University climate scientist and author DR. MICHAEL E. MANN, to discuss what made Hurricanes Harvey and Irma so historically extraordinary (and deadly) and why now is absolutely the right time, despite claims to the contrary by top officials in the Trump Administration and their fellow wingnut denialist community, to discuss the growing impact of our climate crisis and the relationship between that and hurricanes, flooding, wild fires, drought and more across the globe.
"In a word, warmth," Mann tells me when I ask him why Harvey and Irma, from a meteorological perspective, were so uniquely devastating. "Warm oceans mean more moisture in the atmosphere, moisture that's available for record rainfall like we saw in Harvey. It also means greater intensification of these storms —- and indeed, we saw the most intense hurricane ever in the open Atlantic, Irma, at a 185 miles per hour.
He notes that "over the last three years, when global ocean temperatures have been at their warmest, we've seen the strongest hurricane ever, globally, which was Patricia in the Pacific a couple of years ago, we have seen, obviously, the strongest storm in the Northern Hemisphere (Irma). We've also seen the strongest storm in the Southern Hemisphere (Winston)."
"We've warmed the global oceans more than one degree Fahrenheit. That amounts to about a 7% increase in wind speeds. That 7% increase in wind speed means roughly 20% increase in destructive potential. It's not coincidental that we're noticing that. That is not a subtle climate signal. That is a very tangible impact that warming is having on the destructive potential of these storms."
Mann goes on to explain how the US is "falling behind" Europe when it comes to investment, and accurate results, in climate and weather forecasts; responds to critics who use "straw men" and denial to "muddy the waters" and "poison the well"; draws an interesting parallel between Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook mass murder, in response to those who say "now is not the time to discuss climate"; explains why he believes, as a professor of meteorology, there are still so many broadcast meteorologists in the dwindling denier community (and casts some of the blame for that on his own Penn State); and why he feels that recent comments about climate change from Sen. John McCain may offer reason for optimism.
"Ironically, the era of Trump, as adverse as it might feel when it comes to climate action, may ironically be creating a divide within the Republican Party that could end up leading to a governing coalition for action on climate," says the ever optimistic Mann near the end of today's conversation.
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