Beltway Storm: Blame Global Warming…Or Obama?


Two views of the storms and high temperatures that have wreaked havoc on the east coast of the U.S.A. 

First up: Middlebury College Schumann Distinguished Scholar Bill McKibben plunges his Swiftian sword into the breasts of global warming skeptics: 

Please don't sweat the 2,132 new high temperature marks in June—remember, climate change is a hoax. The first to figure this out was Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who in fact called it "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," apparently topping even the staged moon landing. But others have been catching on. Speaker of the House John Boehner pointed out that the idea that carbon dioxide is "harmful to the environment is almost comical." The always cautious Mitt Romney scoffed at any damage too: "Scientists will figure that out ten, twenty, fifty years from now," he said during the primaries…

An absurd number of catastrophes kept happening at the same time, just like in the best disaster films. On Friday, for instance, Washington set all-time heat records (one observer described it as like "being in a giant wet mouth, except six degrees warmer"), and then shortly after dinner a storm for the ages blew through—first there was five minutes of high wind, blowing dust and debris (and tumbleweeds? surely some tumbleweeds), followed by an explosive display of thunder and lightning that left millions without power… 

But if Senator Inhofe is right, we can all relax. It looks real, but it isn't—it's just nature trying to compete with James Cameron. So please don't shout fire in the global 3-D theater. Stay cool. And get a big tub of popcorn—in this epic disaster flick we're  not even close to the finale. 

Meanwhile, Breitbart.com's Joel B. Pollak faults the media for not subjecting President Obama to the same scrutiny it applied to George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina: 

With much of the East Coast still struggling to recover from recent storms that cut power to millions of residents during a heat wave, President Barack Obama is wrapping up a comfortable vacation in Camp David. He was not too busy to visit the scene of wildfires in swing-state Colorado–and make some fundraising calls from Air Force One en route–but he somehow could not muster the strength to address the state of emergency closer to home.

Twenty-two people have died, and residents around Washington, DC are struggling to navigate roads whose signals have not worked for days. If not for the July 4th week, the disruption would have been even worse. But President Obama has left the messy job of handling the emergency to state and local officials. Damage that has been described as "worse than some hurricanes" has not moved Obama to interrupt his air-conditioned holiday.

This dereliction of duty is not happening in distant New Orleans, but right in the heart of the nation's media and political center. Yet the mainstream media has not bothered to comment on Obama's absence. As for the Obama campaign itself, it hawked t-shirts to "keep cool" while the Romney campaign actually took the disaster seriously, organizing a drive for donations of basic necessities to stranded residents, such as canned food and water.

Both arguments seem pretty opportunistic to me. All respect to Kanye, but the post-Katrina criticism of Bush was cheap. Touring disaster areas is what governors are for — and judging by states I've lived in I can't recall the presence of George Pataki or Christy Whitman or tireless firetruck chaser Arnold Schwarzenegger making much practical difference during times of sorrow.

Nor do I think anybody who's been without air conditioning in Prince George's County or displaced by wildfire in Colorado getting much relief from McKibben's suggestions about nixing Arctic drilling or kiboshing the Keystone XL pipeline. According to one skeptical study, deaths from natural disasters have been declining [pdf] since the 1920s. According to National Weather Service [pdf], U.S. weather fatalities are up in some categories and down in others. Is McKibben comfortable saying the lethality of the environment is increasing? Is the well-being of humans even the point?