Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Did Bush cause Katrina?

President Bush is being blamed for a lot of things, but not causing Hurricane Katrina itself. Maybe we are being too hasty. From last week's Chronicle for Higher Education (byline Richard Monastersky):
When it came to global warming and hurricanes, Kerry A. Emanuel used to be a skeptic. In fact, as one of the foremost theorists who studies such storms, Mr. Emanuel helped write a paper last year dismissing the idea that climate change would make hurricanes significantly more dangerous.

That paper will soon be published in a meteorological journal. But Mr. Emanuel's name will not be on it.

While looking at historical records, the atmospheric physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the total power released by storms had drastically increased -- more than doubling in the Atlantic Ocean in the past 30 years. The evidence was so overwhelming that he could not stand by his earlier statements.

"I wasn't even looking for it," says Mr. Emanuel. "The trend was just so big that it stood out like a sore thumb."

He withdrew his name from the forthcoming paper that plays down global warming's influence on hurricanes. Then he published a new study in Nature last month, proclaiming the opposite conclusion.
OK, even if this is right, Bush obviously didn't cause this hurricane. Or any particular hurricane, for that matter. But he may well be setting up our children and grandchildren for more or worse.

It is worth pointing out that severe storms have been more frequent. Last year we were treated to four major hurricanes, all hitting Florida within a month, the most to hit one state since Texas got hit in 1886. Incidentally, Eric Boehlert, interviewed last night on Keith Olberman's show, has written a stunning comparison for Salon between the way the Bush Administration and FEMA handled those storms and Katrina. FEMA and the whole Administration were all over Florida, handing out checks and aid like, . . . well, like water. It was a response 180 degrees from the response to Katrina. The difference? Those storms were just before the 2004 election and Bush Jr. wasn't going to make the same "mistake" his daddy did with Hurricane Andrew. That was good for the folks in Florida. Unfortunately for the ones on the Gulf Coast the election is now over.

So while he's taking responsibility for things, maybe he should worry more about simply being responsible.