Typhoon Haiyan, the monster storm that set a Hiroshima-level standard for natural devastation when it hit the Philippines on Friday, was so big that its spiral image laid over a map of the United States stretches nearly from sea to shining sea. With winds hitting sustained peaks of 195 mph and gusts up to 235 mph, it may well be the most powerful storm ever recorded.
And it is probably just the herald of many monster storms to come. As NBC News Science Editor Alan Boyle reports, “Experts say Typhoon Haiyan was about as strong as it could theoretically get when it swept through the Philippines, killing thousands of people and driving hundreds of thousands from their homes. But intensity limits have been rising over decades past — and climate models suggest they will keep rising over the decades to come, with the potential for bigger and more devastating storms.”
The ominous effects of climate change are becoming more and more obvious with each new natural disaster. For years now, polar ice has been melting and glaciers have been receding, but those effects of rising global temperatures go on quietly, far from the centers of civilization. It’s easy to ignore the plight of polar bears far to the north; less easy to be inattentive when a storm knocks out the lights in Manhattan, floods the subways and wrecks New Jersey coastal towns, as happened a year ago with Superstorm Sandy.
Still, there are plenty of folks who not only remain in denial, they take affirmative action to force other people to pretend climate change is not real. Some of these people are lobbyists who block legislation that could force industries to change their methods and reduce the carbon emissions that help drive the warming phenomenon. Some are state legislators who ban even the mention of global warming and climate change in disaster plans.
Last summer, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina passed a bill to prevent the Coastal Resources Commission from taking climate change data into account when projecting future rates of increase in the sea level along the state’s low-lying coast. They were encouraged in this by real estate developers who do not want anything to get in the way of them building more houses in vulnerable areas that might be inundated by the Atlantic in years to come.
GOP legislators in other red-leaning states are also doing what they can to legislate denial, even as their constituents cope with an increase in floods, wildfires, tornadoes and drought that may be driven by more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change.
Even as the planet is getting less hospitable to human habitation, America’s political response is being skewed by people who -- for reasons of religion, greed or plain stupidity -- want to play make-believe. Neither more monster storms nor disappearing polar bears will make them face up to reality. Only voters can do that.