Blaming hurricanes on climate change misrepresents science

(Flickr / NASA)

The Baylor Lariat editorial, “Stop shouting at brick walls; acknowledge climate change,” makes some important points about President Donald Trump’s administration’s refusal to acknowledge or discuss climate change. But even though it embarks on a valiant effort to “encourage the continued spread of correct facts,” the editorial completely misrepresents climate science as it relates to the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

According to the editorial, “There are years of scientific proof showing the continually rising temperatures, melting of ice and change in CO2 levels. The wreckage of cities at the hands of multiple hurricanes in a row should be proof enough.” The first sentence is true. The second is completely false and claiming it as “science” destroys the credibility of the real scientists by giving critics an easy target.

Quite simply, there is absolutely no evidence that climate change had any effect on the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, according to scientists. A summary of all studies on climate change and hurricanes by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, “It is premature to conclude that human activity–and particularly greenhouse warming–has already caused a detectable change in Atlantic hurricane activity.”

A study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that though it is likely that the intensity of tropical cyclones could increase over the next 100 years, it is also likely that the number of these storms could decrease. The study additionally cites research that demonstrates any impact to hurricane activity from climate change has not been observed yet. That doesn’t mean we should ignore climate change or not be prepared for its future effects. But two severe hurricanes this year is not “proof enough” of climate change and it ignores the history of deadly hurricanes stretching back hundreds of years. The science is a lot more complex than we might think, and we should focus on the actual results from scientists instead of spreading wild speculation based on recent events.