Climate Deniers Are Failing the Victims of Harvey and Irma

by John Hocevar

September 13, 2017

Huge, devastating, and worsened by climate change — Harvey and Irma are exactly what scientists warned us about, but fossil fuel-funded politicians like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are refusing to listen.

Marco Rubio Is a Climate Denier

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is on record questioning the science of climate change despite representing a state suffering from climate impacts. Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

A year ago, after Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew did more than $1 billion in damage to Florida, I wrote that Florida Governor and climate denier Rick Scott was failing the people of his state.

Unfortunately, he still is.

Neither the damage to the state’s economy nor the suffering of his constituents was enough to convince Scott to see the grave realities of climate change. Instead, another year went by with the governor paying closer attention to his fossil fuel industry backers than the millions of people in his state whose safety and livelihoods are threatened by climate change.

What’s worse is that Scott is not alone. In fact, the two U.S. states just ravaged by climate-fueled hurricanes are filled with climate-denying officials making a bad problem worse.

Scott has received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from four huge fossil fuel-dependent utilities — all of which are fighting the expansion of solar energy in Florida. Mayors and civil engineers have repeatedly called him out for failing to fund infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change, and he even banned state officials from using the term climate change.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, was the fourth-largest recipient of oil and gas money in the whole country during the 2016 election cycle. In August, a 19-year-old Floridian asked Rubio at a campaign event if we would put the profits of fossil fuel CEOs before the interests of people — he didn’t answer.

Over in Texas, it doesn’t get any better. Senator Ted Cruz was top recipient of oil and gas money in the 2016 election cycle, receiving nearly $1.5 million in campaign funds. And Governor Greg Abbott has received more of his campaign money from the oil and gas industry than any other sector.

Science tells us without a doubt that climate change is real, and it’s making storms like these worse, but elected officials in two of the most vulnerable U.S. states refuse to listen.

Irma and Harvey’s record-breaking force should be a wake up call for these leaders: climate denial is lethal.

The death toll from Harvey has climbed above 70 and the economic damage well past $100 billion. More than 40 chemical facilities released toxins like lead, arsenic, and benzene — all of which cause cancer — into the air around Houston. Thousands of people were forced into makeshift shelters, many of whom now have no home to return to.

Irma broke records as one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes ever. So far it’s claimed 11 lives in the United States, forced millions of people to evacuate, and caused even more to lose power for days. Most preliminary estimates put the losses around $27 billion. That’s the same as the damages wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which led to an insurance sector collapse that left more than a million customers without coverage.

My heart goes out to the people of Texas and Florida, two states I have lived in and which will always be a part of me. I don’t want to see this happen again, but I know it will as long as those in power are beholden to the fossil fuel industry. We cannot wait until election day to demand a change — we need climate justice now.

Add your name below to hold climate deniers and big polluters accountable for hurricane destruction.

John Hocevar

By John Hocevar

An accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine biologist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.

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