Here’s What’s Insensitive, Mr. Pruitt: Not Telling Hurricane Victims What’s Really Going On

Written by Keith Gaby, Senior Communications Director at Environmental Defense Fund.

As we face the first-ever pair of Category 4 hurricanes hitting the mainland United States in a single season, there are three priorities. First, help the victims. Second, deal with the aftermath of damage and pollution. Third, do whatever we can to prepare for the future.

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, is failing at two-and-a-half of those priorities.

They attacked media, plotted budget cuts amid flood

The EPA plays a major role during disasters and agency staff has been on the scene in Houston. There have been complaints about their response – of course, EPA headquarters appears more interested in attacking reporters than dealing with the problems – but at least they’re there.

But even as the EPA’s career professionals work in Texas, the political leadership is pushing Congress for devastating cuts that will severely reduce EPA’s ability to help next time. As my colleague Elgie Holstein points out, cuts to air quality monitoring, toxic waste cleanup and water programs will undercut the agency’s capabilities.

Which brings us to next time.

As catastrophic storms hit, they refuse to tell us why

We’ve always had hurricanes, but climate change is making them stronger. Warmer oceans add energy to storms, increasing wind speed and destructive power. A hotter atmosphere in these conditions means more rain and flooding.

And as yet another catastrophic storm is about to hit continental U.S., Pruitt and allies such as Rush Limbaugh are doing everything they can to deny this link and confuse the public.

In the midst of a moment when these storms could help inform the public debate about climate change, Pruitt says it’s “insensitive” to discuss the issue. As if raising one of the contributing causes to a natural catastrophe will somehow prevent first responders from doing their jobs.

The fact is, it’s insensitive to deny climate reality right when people are being so badly hurt by the impacts of it. It’s like telling people to shut up about germs during a flu epidemic.

Pruitt is building a platform for fringe voices

Being sensitive is not really what this is about.

Pruitt wants to avoid this conversation because the facts are against him. He has a long history trying deny established climate reality — from his claim that carbon dioxide was not a “primary driver” of warming despite what the scientists at NASA and his own agency say, to his idea for a “red team-blue team” exercise to debate the science.

That reality show-style effort is designed to give a platform to fringe voices who deny what all major American scientific organizations know: pollution is driving dangerous changes to our climate. As Christine Todd Whitman, EPA chief under President George W. Bush wrote this week, the exercise is a “a shameful attempt to confuse the public.”

Limbaugh alleged conspiracy – then evacuated

Rush Limbaugh dealt with the fact of more powerful storms by essentially labeling them fake news. Rush said reports of more damaging hurricanes was the result of collusion between “retailers and local media” to create panic.

He claimed the storms “are never as strong as they’re reported.” I wonder what the people of Houston or Florida or the Caribbean think of his theory.

It’s also unclear what role Rush thinks the National Weather Service plays in this conspiracy, but as the storm approached his South Florida home on Thursday he apparently took their advice since he, too, decided to evacuate.

Hurricane victims deserve our help – and the truth

Behind all of this is an effort to intimidate us from talking about the reality of climate change by using the victims of these storms as cover. Of course no one should be distracted from helping those affected. They are going through an incredibly difficult time and our help.

When I was a child in XX, our house was flooded after a hurricane. When we returned from sleeping on the floor a church, we found everything we owned had been ruined – so I have some small idea of the difficultly and disruption.

Nothing should get in the way of helping families and communities recover in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and beyond.

But we also owe these victims — and all Americans – a serious conversation about solutions. No one would say it is “insensitive” to discuss the causes of war or famine or disease, so that we can reduce future harm.

It’s time to do the same with the threat of climate change.

This article originally appeared on the EDF Voices blog and is reprinted with permission.

Photo Credit: SC National Guard/Flickr

122 comments

Dan B
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Silja S.,
Yes, people need to know the reality about hurricanes and living in hurricane-prone areas. This is not unique. These areas are hit frequently by minor storms, and form time to time, major ones like this. Do not tell them that it is someone else's fault. They have decided to live in these areas. They should know the consequences, and how to prepare themselves in the future.

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silja s
silja salonen2 months ago

What... insensitive please, these discussions are needed. people are entitled to know, to help change the course of their lives ... for them for their children, for the future.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Noted.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Maybe they should read this:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

They should be thinking of all the people that have been badly affected by this devastating hurricane My thoughts and prayers are with you all Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Horrible and sickening man Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Deplorable and despicable Thank you for caring and sharing

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Cruel J
Cruel J2 months ago

I got hit with Irma, so I HATE Pruitt.

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Henry M
Henry M2 months ago

Ugh

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