When to Talk About Climate Change and Hurricanes

Oct 15, 2018

Credit NOAA

On the heels of the U.N. report released last weekend, Hurricane Michael rekindled the conversation about hurricanes and climate change – transforming in two days from a tropical storm to the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since 1851. There is no question that such rapid intensification is fed by warm ocean temperatures, and that the ocean is warmer now, and will continue to get warmer as a result of our greenhouse gas emissions.  

But, there is some debate about when and how to discuss those connections. Is it inappropriate to explore the root causes of an extreme weather event in the midst of an emergency?

A new poll of those hit hardest by Hurricane Florence suggests the answer is no: 44% of North Carolina residents surveyed after Florence hit said they think the time to talk about climate change is as an extreme weather event is unfolding. It’s not a majority, but the number who said we should wait until a week or more after was in the single digits.

Ed Maibach is a University Professor at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication and one of the lead researchers on that poll. He spoke to Living Lab Radio on the subject.