Staff Sgt. Lawrence Lind, left, hoists a child into a Black Hawk helicopter while Sgt. Ray Smith helps the boy who was rescued from Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Port Arthur, Texas. Photo: Chris Machian / Omaha World-Herald

By Paul Rosenberg
4 September 2017

(Salon) – A storm as momentous as Hurricane Harvey, which devastated southeast Texas last week, holds many lessons — almost too many, one might say. To keep things manageable, I can name three that could serve us very well.

First, “Did climate change cause Hurricane Harvey?” is the wrong question to ask, embedding a host of mistaken assumptions and leading us nowhere useful. The right question to ask, instead, is something more like “What does Harvey tell us about the kind of future we will be living in?” Asking the right question helps orient us toward moving forward.

Second, Trump’s climate denial vs. reality of Hurricane Harvey is just the tip of the iceberg. The losses involved are constantly growing beyond our previous calculations, and could easily be enough to destroy America’s capacity for world leadership, much as World War II destroyed Britain’s. In addition, Trump’s climate denial is just one facet of his budget and policy priorities which are clearly disastrous in light of Harvey, and Houston’s role as a fossil fuel industry center represents another dimension of potential catastrophic loss — even if we dodge a bullet this time.

The third big lesson was laid out in a Twitter thread by planetary futurist Alex Steffen: “What Houston shows us, yet again, is that we live in a world of predatory delay,” he wrote, defining that concept as “the blocking or slowing of needed change, in order to make money off unsustainable, unjust systems in the meantime.” Learning this lesson, he went on to say, “is key to understanding how we must act in order to save ourselves & acting accordingly.”

Let’s take a closer look at each of these lessons in turn. [more]

Three things we just learned about climate change and big storms: Can the lessons of Harvey save us?

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