Harvey, which smashed into the Texas coast on Friday, rapidly developed into a Category 4 hurricane and has drenched parts of Houston with around 50in of rain in less than a week, more than the city typically receives in a year. So much rain fell that the National Weather Service had to add new colours to its maps.
The flooding has resulted in at least 15 deaths, with more than 30,000 people forced from their homes. Fema has warned that hundreds of thousands of people will require federal help for several years, with Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, calling Harvey “one of the largest disasters America has ever faced”. Insurers have warned the cost of the damage could amount to $100bn.
Some scientists have pointed to the tropical storm as further evidence of the dangers of climate change, with Penn State University professor of meteorology Michael Mann stating that warming temperatures “worsened the impact” of the storm, heightening the risk to life and property.
Conservative groups, however, have mobilized to downplay or mock any association between the storm and climate change. Myron Ebell, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team when Donald Trump became president, said the last decade has been a “period of low hurricane activity” and pointed out that previous hurricanes occurred when emissions were lower.
“Instead of wasting colossal sums of money on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much smaller amounts should be spent on improving the infrastructure that protects the Gulf and Atlantic costs,” said Ebell, who is director of environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian thinktank that has received donations from fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil.
Thomas Pyle, who led Trump’s transition team for the department of energy, said: “It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the left is exploiting Hurricane Harvey to try and advance their political agenda, but it won’t work.
“When everything is a problem related to climate change, the solutions no longer become attainable. That is their fundamental problem.”