Here they come, the eco-ghouls, feasting on another natural disaster. This time it’s the floods in Houston. No sooner had Hurricane Harvey caused terrifying waters to consume entire streets and trailer parks than the eco-set was rushing in to try to make moral mileage out of it all. This is climate change in action, they decreed. This is man’s fault, they insist. Our hubris caused this watery horror, they claim, sounding positively Biblical, like Old Testament patriarchs warning the sinful populace that God will punish it with floods. There’s nothing like a natural disaster to remind us how backward environmentalist thinking is.
They do it all the time. Come heatwave or tsunami or volcano eruption, they cock their fingers and point them at greedy, destructive, climate-change-denying mankind, us alleged makers of these natural calamities. ‘Harvey is what climate change looks like’, says a writer for Politico. This weather is ‘political’, he says. This echoes the bizarre phrase ‘Weather of Mass Destruction’, promiscuously used by greens, which treats weather events almost as sentient, as seeking to teach us mortals a lesson about our wickedness. Indeed, a columnist for the Washington Post says we can only ‘save the planet’ if we ‘heed Harvey’s hard lesson’ — which is that nature has been too ‘dramatically altered by man’ and ‘we have to take responsibility for what we’ve done’. So man has been too modern, too cocky, too ambitious, and these floods are our comeuppance.
The moralisation of Harvey’s floods, the cynical imbuing of them with a lesson for mankind, is most clear in the snarky commentary about the industries Texas is most famous for: oil and gas. Texas should use this ‘devastating tragedy’ to transition from an ‘epicentre for oil and gas to a world capital of alternative energies’, says the Washington Post. Not a single link has been established between Texas’s production of oil and these floods; instead, all the supposedly scientific talk is mere hypothesising that while a hotter climate doesn’t cause hurricanes, it might — note the word might — make them more intense than they would otherwise be. And yet observers casually draw a moral line from oil-drilling to deadly floods, from Texan industry to this Texan calamity, because their aim is not to be scientific at all but to be hectoring, to use this disaster as an exclamation mark to their already existing prejudices about industry and growth. They don’t want to understand the floods — they want to exploit them.
Likewise, New York magazine points to the ‘tragic irony’ that many of those whose lives have been wrecked by the floods were workers for the ‘oil business, which has worked tirelessly to undermine public understanding of climate change’. And now they find themselves pummelled by the ‘toll of our emissions’. Hilarious, right? Politico smirks at the ‘symbolism’ of this awful flood hitting the ‘capital city of America’s oil industry’. Lesson: such industries, and the climate-change denialism they allegedly promote, ‘have real consequences’.
To reiterate: no one, but no one, has come anywhere close to proving a connection between oil excavation and this hurricane, or any other hurricane. It’s just assumed, invented. This hectoring of oil-sinful Texas is a secular version of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, only where those cities were destroyed by fire for the old sins of sexual deviance, Texas is apparently being pounded with wind and water for the new sin of hunting for oil and gas.
The eco-lecturing has been relentless. Hurricane Harvey is ‘our fault’, experts speculate. ‘There’ll be more disasters like Houston if Trump continues to cut climate-change regulations’, says a headline in the Independent. This is eco-blackmail: heed ‘Harvey’s lesson’ and rearrange America’s industrial and business life accordingly or more people will die. Harvey is even being used to try to correct people’s thinking, to chastise so-called ‘deniers’. ‘Harvey’s flood of evidence against climate-change denial’, says one headline. Apparently this disaster has ‘punched the ideology of President Trump… right in the mouth’. This horror will deal a ‘fatal blow to climate-change scepticism’, hopes one observer. Many hope the floods will open Trump’s eyes, and by extension the eyes of everyone who isn’t convinced climate change is the biggest problem facing the world: it might at least ‘dent’ our denialism, says American Prospect.
In short, this punishing event might help us to see the light, see the error of our ways, clean out our poisoned minds. It might make us recant our non-green thinking and embrace the green truth, the green light. This is indistinguishable from the old religious moralisation of natural disasters, which was also a means of warning the sinful hordes to change ‘or else’. ‘But we have science on our side!’, cry the exploiters of Hurricane Harvey. Please. This isn’t science. It’s the weaponisation of a scientific hypothesis to the end of shushing scepticism and forcing through an ideological agenda. It’s the use of a people’s pain to score moral points. It’s about as low as politics can get.