A lot of people are wondering if it’s okay to “politicize” hurricanes. I was able to reach Hurricane Harvey via telephone to get his opinion. Here’s our brief conversation.
Hey, Harvey! Glad to reach you. I know you’re busy. So just briefly, my editor is making me ask this, is there any chance you could turn around and not make landfall?
I’d love to, but at this point, I’m locked in. It’s physics.
Okay, had to ask. Look, a lot of people are worried that about “politicizing” you, saying we need to focus on the emergency response in Texas. What do you have to say to them?
I think they’re right. I’m as apolitical as it gets. I don’t watch cable news. I don’t even vote. And I‘m definitely not here to get dragged into a political debate.
Sure. So what about the immigrants who can’t evacuate from your path without fear of being detained? A lot of people are worried about that.
Well, obviously, that’s unfortunate. Yes, some people have to choose between getting away from me and getting deported, but now’s not the time to focus on something as divisive as immigration policy.
Okay…How about the refineries you might hit? There’s a big environmental justice problem around those areas and fence-line communities could be dealing with pollution for decades.
I’m not trying to hit any specific areas or specific people, okay? It’s not my responsibility to account for where people live or where you let companies put giant tanks full of oil.
Gotcha. So last topic. The ocean you’re riding in on is significantly higher than it used to be and…
Is this going to be a climate change question?
Ugh. I’m so sick of people asking me about this. Yes — climate change makes sea-levels higher and that means all storms can get further inland. Yes — warmer ocean water makes hurricanes more powerful. Yes — warmer air temperatures means storms come with heavier rainfall. But the science is complex and I’m not here to take sides in the climate change debate, okay?
Well, I’m asking, in part, because the Trump administration just reversed rules that would require infrastructure projects to account for future sea level rise and flooding conditions. As a hurricane, do you think that’s the right move?
I simply can’t speak on behalf of future hurricanes. You’ll have to ask them.
The Trump Administration is also censoring climate scientists and has proposed some pretty dramatic cuts to programs that help us understand hurricanes and prepare for climate change.
The attention from scientists is always flattering, but I think we need to keep science and politics separate.
Okay…well, thanks for your perspective. I’m honestly surprised no one has asked you about this before.
Thanks. It’s unfortunate that it takes a hurricane to get people to put their politics aside for a few days, but I’m glad I can help.