Brodie Farquhar: Glaring omissions in climate column |

Brodie Farquhar: Glaring omissions in climate column

Steamboat Pilot and Today subscribes to a syndicate that provides the Steamboat paper, and hundreds of other publications, with columnists who work for major dailies. That’s good, and the mix of liberal and conservative columnists provide a diversity of thought for Pilot/Today readers.

A new columnist is represented by the syndicate, and he appeared in the Pilot/Today last week, one Bret Stephens, hired as a contributing columnist at the New York Times this past April.

A conservative, award-winning columnist, Mr. Stephens is well-educated, articulate and can turn a nice phrase. He’s also a climate change denier, though he prefers the term climate change “agnostic.”

In last week’s column, ostensibly about Houston, Hurricane Harvey and climate change, Stephens waxed eloquent over how wonderful growth is, that only fully developed and rich countries can afford to worry about the environment.

I’d like to point out a few of Stephens’ most glaring omissions.

First of all, Houston is famed for its anti-regulatory zeal and the fact there is no zoning in that city, which has grown and sprawled. Last year, a ProPublica/Texas Tribune investigation found that Houston’s obvious flooding risks, noted by planners and scientists, were discounted by public officials as “anti-development.” As Newsweek recently noted, Houston is “drowning in its freedom,” thanks to runaway developments in flood plains.

And, who is going to pay for all the flood damage in 100 and 500-year flood plains? Not the developers who made fabulous profits.

Stephens barely touched on climate change’s impact on Harvey and Houston, almost like it was irrelevant in a climate of go-go growth.

Scientists are pretty conservative when it comes to definitively saying that Harvey was caused by climate change. They won’t say that, simply because of the host of variables that muddy the floodwaters. What they will say, is that Harvey is the kind of storm one would and should expect as a result of mankind’s burning vast amounts of fossil fuels for the past 200 years.

We have fundamentally changed the content of the atmosphere, which is capturing ever-greater amounts of energy in the world’s energy machine called weather. That energy is expressing itself in higher ocean temperatures, more frequent and intense heat episodes, more rapid evaporation and, thus, greater rainfall and flooding.

Amid all the news about Harvey and the suffering in Texas, did you notice that southern California is sweltering under triple-digit temperatures?

I’d suggest you take Stephens’ pronouncements about climate change with a grain of salt, but that seems insufficient. Maybe a trainload of salt.

Brodie Farquhar


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