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After Harvey, does Trump still think climate change is a hoax?

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. For those of us in and around Los Angeles who still have electricity, here is a helpful tip for keeping the A/C humming throughout this hellish heatwave (hint: turn something else off — now). Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Southern California’s miserable weather isn’t the biggest climate news of the moment, and for good reason: Much of Houston and other parts of Texas spent the week underwater after Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Harvey stalled overhead and dumped record-breaking amounts of rain, turning expansive interstates and neatly laid-out suburbs into shallow inland seas. How much human-caused climate change aided Harvey’s devastation is unclear, but we do know what isn’t aiding anything: President Trump’s denial of global warming.

Harvey resembles the kind of storm climate scientists warned us about: a bigger, less infrequent and more devastating instance of a weather phenomenon not unknown to the area. Houston is no stranger to hurricanes and heavy rain, but Harvey was the kind of storm that part of Texas can expect to receive once every 500 years. Unfortunately, Houston has had three such “500 year” floods in the last three years. Perhaps this should teach Trump a lesson about climate change, says The Times Editorial Board:

If Trump himself were to consult the experts — such as, you know, climate scientists — he would learn that global warming is real. He’d also learn that although warming did not cause Hurricane Harvey, it certainly makes such storms stronger, more unpredictable and quicker to intensify. Experts — there’s that word again — say that warmer air temperatures mean more evaporation of moisture from the seas to the skies, and thus more rainfall from storms. Warmer seas — including the Gulf of Mexico — intensify storms, from their size to their wind speeds, and amplify storm surges. (In southeast Texas, the flat geography allows a surging Gulf to intrude farther inland.) Another wrinkle, according to atmospheric scientist Michael E. Mann: Climate change modeling suggests that human-propelled global warming could lead to weaker prevailing winds and a jet stream tracking father north. And that appears to have been what led Harvey to park over southeast Texas and dump more than 40 inches of water in places rather than spreading the rain (and pain) around or drifting back out over the Gulf....

Ironically, the president two weeks ago rescinded Obama administration standards requiring the federal government to assess and account for the impact of climate change when designing and building new infrastructure projects. Of course, that makes no difference to the current status of Houston, but Harvey’s terrible impact certainly spotlights the foolishness of ignoring climate change. Experts (ahem) in Trump’s own Pentagon know that climate change is real, and they recognize that more extreme heat, droughts, floods and famines threaten international stability while rising seas imperil military bases — especially, of course, naval installations. But rising seas also threaten civilian shipping ports, coastal neighborhoods and sensitive freshwater estuaries. Saline ocean water is already seeping into the Everglades, threatening the freshwater supply of millions of people in southern Florida. Infrastructure must be adapted to account for such changes. And not just in the U.S. Globally, populations in coastal zones are increasing faster than in inland areas, and many of the world’s megacities are built on coasts or in low-lying deltas.

This is the hot, hard reality the world faces, and as we’ve noted before, Trump, along with his Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other proponents of increasing fossil fuel production, are leading the nation in a dangerous direction. This isn’t an issue of mere policy differences; their beliefs and agenda imperil the health and safety of the people they have sworn to protect.

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Speaking of climate change, Exxon Mobil misled the public about it. According to Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran, for decades about 80% of Exxon Mobil’s internal communications and scientific studies acknowledged the reality of climate change. At the same time, roughly the same percentage of the “advertorials” it published in the New York Times expressed doubt. And now, Exxon Mobil is misleading the public about its history of misleading the public. L.A. Times

Rain will always fall on Houston; devastation does not have to be the result. Kiah Collier and Neena Satija, two journalists in Texas, propose four steps for making Houston less prone to days-long flooding and the resulting damage and death: Preserve and restore as much prairie land as possible, restrict development in flood plains and buy out flood-prone homes, plan for climate change and educate the public. L.A. Times

Yes, there’s a silver lining to the Harvey storm clouds. Tragic as the deluge was for masses of people, columnist Jonah Goldberg writes, that amount of rain washed away a lot of political bull. The Times Editorial Board strikes a similar note, pointing out that the obvious political differences between Texas and California do not diminish our desire to help or our solidarity with the Lone Star State. “The wide gap between this bluest of blue states and that reddest of red ones epitomizes how sharply divided this country has become on so many issues,” the board writes. “What we share, though, is a common vulnerability to the power and fury of Mother Nature.”

A black daughter of the Confederacy on what to do with all those Lee statues: Former Times editorial writer Lisa Richardson, a descendant of both black slaves and a white Confederate soldier, proposes moving the statues to museums. As for Richardson’s ancestors, she’s glad her white great-great-great-grandfather lost and her great-great-great-grandmother won, but she thinks of her Confederate ancestor “without bitterness”: “He was a man of his time, his family, his community and his culture.” L.A. Times

Remember the Arpaio pardon? It happened last Friday, an eternity in Trump time, but its effects will be lasting. #NeverTrump pundit Max Boot wrote that Trump and Joe Arpaio, the convicted former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, are both emblems of racism and lawlessness. Political scientist Jeffrey Crouch wrote that the pardon, however odious it may be, is probably not sufficient grounds for impeaching Trump. Legal analyst Andrew Cohen looked for any similarity between the Arpaio pardon and similar actions by Barack Obama and found … nothing.

Reach me: paul.thornton@latimes.com

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