Just days after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, another storm, Hurricane Irma, has strengthened over the Atlantic Ocean, threatening to batter parts of the Caribbean this week as “an extremely dangerous” Category 5 storm, the National Weather Service said on Tuesday morning.
There is a growing likelihood that Irma will also reach parts of Florida later in the week and weekend, though it is too soon to predict the effect of the storm, which has already earned its Category 5 status with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, according to the service.
“It is still too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental United States,” the service said in its Tuesday morning statement on the storm. “However, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.”
Over the weekend, I was listening to the latest episode of Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, wherein the hosts are talking about the fallout from Hurricane Harvey. Toward the end of that discussion, host David Plotz starts talking about his growing anxiety and fear regarding these storms and the fact that climate change is likely to increase their frequency and severity means that at some point in our lifetimes, some coastal city will be destroyed and we will no longer have the will or capability as a nation to rebuild it. Plotz and his co-hosts nervously discuss this question for a few minutes, make some awkward jokes, and then move on to other topics.
The entire discussion seemed like a pretty good proxy for our society’s and its political chattering class’s approach to climate change.
There is a storm. It is coming. It is going to cause damage on a scale that we can scarcely imagine, the effects of which will permeate every aspect of our society for decades to come. We could be working on ways to head off this disaster, mitigate the most severe of its impacts, or at least prepare for it.
Instead, we are talking about the politics of whether or not it exists, and nervously trying to get out of any more serious conversation.