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Climate creep and American frogs

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Members of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries help rescue Mike Henry (right) and his partner Rosemarie Carpenter during flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, Aug. 30.

©Gerald Herbert/The Associated Press

At least a decade ago, a retired general at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies said to me that the rich countries will never take climate change seriously until some very big and apparently climate-related disaster happens in a First World country. Hurricane Harvey was not that disaster.

At least 20 people have died in the Houston floods in the past few days, and the number will undoubtedly go up. In Bangladesh, at least 134 have died in monsoon flooding that has submerged at least a third of the country. But the latter fact will have no impact on opinion in the developed countries — “it’s just the monsoon again” — and the Texas disaster is not big enough to change minds in the United States. Nor should it.

Hurricanes are an annual event in the Gulf of Mexico, and their causes are well understood. Global warming has raised the amount of rain that this storm dumped on east Texas by three to five per cent. (Higher sea surface temperature equals more evaporation.) It also probably caused the changed wind patterns that kept Harvey loitering off the coast for so long.

But it did not cause Harvey.

The Houston floods are........

© The Telegram