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Hurricanes, Global Warming, and the Straitjacketing of Science

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It was the most intense tropical cyclone ever to hit the mainland of the United States. Having a pressure of 892 millibars at landfall in the Florida Keys, it packed winds of an estimated 185 miles per hour and carried a storm surge of 20 feet. More than 400 people lost their lives from the storm.

Another hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast, carrying winds close to 180 miles an hour, and even after it had weakened into a tropical depression, it deposited 40 or more inches of rain, causing massive flooding and killing more than 100 people.

The first storm, the Labor Day Hurricane, happened in 1935, while the second is the infamous Hurricane Camille, which came ashore in 1969. While they still remain the two most intense hurricanes ever to strike the USA, no one ever has suggested that either had anything to do with climate change.

No one doubts, however, that if either of those two Category 5 hurricanes were to occur today, a chorus of scientists, politicians, and journalists would claim that their intensity was due unequivocally to global warming. Global warming activists Michael E. Mann, Susan J. Hassol, and Thomas C. Peterson recently wrote in the Washington Post:

Hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean waters, and the oceans are warming because of the human-caused buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of coal, oil, and gas. The strongest hurricanes have gotten stronger because of global warming. Over the past two years, we have witnessed the most intense hurricanes on record for the globe, both hemispheres, the Pacific and now, with Irma, the Atlantic.

As Roy Spencer and other scientists have noted, however, there is no scientific proof that storms are becoming stronger than they were before. Simple observation tells us that if storm intensity were due simply to global warming – with earth becoming increasingly warmer each year and a steady upward pattern – then the Atlantic Ocean that produced a Category 5 hurricane nearly a century ago should be producing out-of-category storms on a regular basis today.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, climate change advocates intoned that similar storms would become a “new normal,” but neither their climate models nor their own logic could have predicted a 12-year hiatus in major hurricanes striking the USA. That the hiatus would violate their own predictive models simply was ignored, as activists have turned to a new strategy: criminalizing so-called climate denial.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, The Nation declared that people who deny that climate change is responsible for bad weather are guilty of murder and should be criminally punished:

"It is past time to call out Trump and all climate deniers for this crime against humanity. No more treating climate denial like an honest difference of opinion."

One might recall that following World War II, Nazi officials and collaborators were tried on charges of “crimes against humanity.” Many were executed, and thousands more were imprisoned. While The Nation has not yet called for mass executions and imprisonment of those who do not share the beliefs of the publication, one might recall that The Nation has supported communist revolutions for the past century in which mass executions, torture, and imprisonment were the norm.

It is not only The Nation that is calling for harsh sanctions against so-called climate deniers. In 2016, then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told Congress her office not only was looking into civil action against the “deniers,” but also had “referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.”Likewise, when she was California attorney general, Kamala Harris, now a U.S. Senator and a reported candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2020, ordered a criminal investigation of Exxon-Mobil Corporation to see if the company had deliberately lied to the public about the so-called dangers of climate change.

As more and more politicians and journalists call for criminal prosecutions of scientists and their associates for simply disagreeing with people like Michael Mann, the dangers of an American version of Lysenkoism increase. (Trofim Lysenko was a Soviet scientist whose dangerously wrong views on agriculture gained Stalin’s support. Dissenting scientists were fired, imprisoned, and even executed for their alleged apostasy.)

Unfortunately, we seem to beyond a point where even honest discussions about the weather are possible. Not that long ago, a politician that ran on a platform of giving us better weather would have been relegated to the Pantheon of Losers. Today, at least one major political party requires such promises as a condition of nomination, and they are fast moving to a place of no return. Any scientific discussion that questions “orthodoxy” at all is considered heresy.

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