Littwin: As Hurricane Irma hits, how do you explain climate-change deniers to a 2-year-old?

I have a two-year-old grandson who is fascinated by, and a little afraid of, thunder and lightning. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, he usually says he has been dreaming about “tunder,” but if there’s a storm during the day, he wants us out on the front porch watching and talking about where storms come from and why lightning happens and why thunder follows. We read several books on the topic, his favorite of which involves “grumpy” and “happy” clouds. On the other hand, he’s also very much into weather radar.

This is a pretty normal human reaction. We want to understand things that frighten us so that we can feel safe. We use to put thunderstorms down to gods with thunderbolts, which is certainly no less primitive that those who think hurricanes are sent to punish a city for once having elected a lesbian mayor.

Now, fortunately, we have the science in front of us. We know how hurricanes form. And we know, crucially, that as the sea temperatures continue to rise, the chances are that storms will likely become ever stronger and more ferocious. We have some idea what it is we can do to reduce those chances.

Unless you’re, say, the man who runs the Environmental Protection Agency or the president of the United States or the Secretary of Energy or the governor of Florida or the governor of Texas, who happen to be climate deniers all.

Then, you don’t want to know. Or you say it’s unknowable. Or you say that you’re not a scientist, as if that means you must ignore the science in front of you. Or you say it’s up for debate and meanwhile there’s nothing to be done other than withdraw from international agreements on climate change and do away with regulations that limit the causes of climate change.

Or you quash research on, as they say at Scott Pruitt’s EPA, the “two C’s” — climate and change — while appointing a non-scientist to oversee which scientific research is approved for EPA grants. Or you remove climate data from your web site. Or, as Florida Gov. Rick Scott is alleged to have done, you direct state officials never to use the two C’s in consecutive order. (Scott denies that charge, making him both a climate-change denier and a climate-change-directive denier. What he also denies is that Florida is seen as the state most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.)

In fact, as Hurricane Irma follows Hurricane Harvey in bringing record-setting winds and/or rain, as two more hurricanes roil the Caribbean, as hundreds of thousands flee the vast and ferocious storm in Florida, as Houston and southeastern Texas begin the painful years of recovery, as more lives are expected to be lost, as many more billions of dollars in property damage will be recorded, as a nation is glued to the news in the hopes that it won’t be as deadly as we fear, the immediate reaction from the EPA’s Pruitt is that it’s the wrong time to discuss the issue of climate change, that’s it’s “insensitive” to Floridians and “opportunitistic” of those reporters who ask about it.

Fortunately we have people like Christine Todd Whitman, the former head of the EPA and former Republican governor of New Jersey, to ignore the idea that we should ignore the issue before us. She wrote the other day in an op-ed for The New York Times that she feared the worst when Donald Trump appointed Pruitt, the climate-change-denying activist, to lead the agency and that her fears have unfortunately played out just as she suspected.

She tells of Pruitt’s plan to create a scientific “red team” to challenge the findings of the great majority of scientists who study climate change in universities, in research centers, in government, which presumably would be the “blue team.” He couldn’t make it any plainer. The red-team skeptics, whose numbers are few and whose work is usually funded by the fossil-fuel industry, represent the red-state Republicans in the red-blue divide that has come to define politics in America.

As Whitman notes, there is no real argument among scientists that humans are contributing to climate change and that steps must be taken to mitigate this most serious of problems. She writes: “That Mr. Pruitt seeks to use the power of the E.P.A. to elevate those who have already lost the argument is shameful, and the only outcome will be that the public will know less about the science of climate change than before.”

The deniers may have lost the argument, but not in the Republican Party, and not in the Trump administration even at a time when the president is best pals with Chuck and Nancy.

And they haven’t lost it in Florida so long as Rick Scott is the governor. He has been seen everywhere around the state warning those in evacuation areas to get out while they can, that their property can be replaced but that their lives are another thing. He speaks with urgency but with calm. If you could forget that he has done virtually nothing to lessen the threat of climate change to Florida as governor while ignoring scientists who have tried to warn him of the dangers, you’d be tempted to think he was a true leader.

As the storm hits Florida, I can sit my grandson on my knee and read him a book about how hurricanes form and he’ll want to read it again. And again. And again. I’ll tell him the storms are dangerous, but that we’re safe where we are, and that his cousins who live in Florida have evacuated and gone to South Carolina so they can be safe.

What I won’t tell him is that we have a president who thinks climate change is a China-driven hoax or about his team of deniers who think the best option on climate change is not to discuss it at all. For a 2-year-old, the world can already be scary enough.

Photo courtesy of NOAA satellites, via Flickr: Creative Commons


  1. Let’s pretend that the deniers are wrong. Let’s pretend the scientists are wrong. What are their fall-back expectations? It probably doesn’t matter that the deniers’ fall-back position is death to the planet, so we can assume the position will leave no one to remember. On the other hand, if the scientists are wrong we’ll have a lot of fossilfree energy to serve our children and their children, for (effedtively) ever.

  2. Elections have consequences.

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “(Mr. Trump) won’t be president. He was sliding in the polls before the video, and the video now means that he has no way to climb back. Which independent voter, which suburban woman, which Main Street Republican on the fence is going to vote for Trump now?” – Mike Littwin

    Magical thinking: The belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. –


    Well, at least Mr. Littwin didn’t blame climate change on President Trump or those who voted for him as actress Jennifer Lawrence did. Mr. Littwin forgets to mention that so-called climate change is a global problem that will require a global solution and as he has often said, the world doesn’t agree on much.

    And it is interesting to note, as The Guardian did, that the Democrat’s 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, “dropped the words “climate change” from most of her public addresses after winning the endorsement of her party rival Bernie Sanders, according to Climate Home analysis.”

    And as reported by Mother Jones, “(Mrs. Clinton) subscribes to an all-of-the-above energy policy. She promotes domestic drilling for oil and natural gas, including through potentially dangerous fracking.” Mrs. Clinton also:

    – promoted fracking abroad while secretary of state.
    – supported offshore oil drilling
    – connected climate change to women’s rights
    – received lots of oil money for her family’s charitable foundation
    – does not support a carbon tax

    There’s a reason Mr. Littwin doesn’t mention any of those things: His interest in climate change extends only to the point that it can be used as a political tool. In 2016, prior to the general election, Mr. Littwin mentioned climate change exactly twice (t-w-i-c-e) and in a year that Mr. Littwin devoted an entire column to an eye-roll (you could look it up) he failed to devote even one column to climate change. Not one.

    And while this column is entitled, “As Hurricane Irma hits, how do you explain climate-change deniers to a 2-year-old?” a much better title would have been, “As Hurricane Irma hits, how do you explain bias to a 2-year-old?”.

    In Mr. Littwin’s world bias occurs far more frequently than hurricanes and this week proves Mr. Littwin doesn’t limit his biases to climate change.

    There are two types of politicians Mr. Littwin dislikes: Those who do not fulfill campaign promises and those who do. Close behind are politicians who Mr. Littwin believes cater to their base simply because that base got them elected. Well, duh.

    Mr. “good handle on politics” Littwin appears to be unaware of the most basic political tenet: Elections have consequences.

    Politicians expressing loyalty to the voters who elected them through legislation is not a new concept! Only in Mr. Littwin’s twisted political perspective would loyalty be considered a shortcoming. Of course, there is another explanation for Mr. Littwin’s skewed political view: Maybe, just maybe, he has separate “rules” for Republicans. Not even a magical thinker like Mr. Littwin could actually believe President Trump is the very first president ever to express loyalty to his base through legislation.

    Mr. Littwin contends that “(President) Trump puts the onus on Congress” to resolve problems inherent in DACA. But isn’t that where the onus should be? Doesn’t the Constitution give lawmaking authority solely to the legislative branch? Doesn’t DACA wrest that power from Congress?

    Those are the questions that make DACA far more important than even the 800,000 affected by President Trump’s decision to end the program and those are the questions Mr. Littwin has been dancing around like a hippopotamus in heat.

    This from American Greatness:

    “The dangers of DACA are manifold and (should be) self-evident, but they are worth revisiting. The biggest problem with DACA is that it undermines the rule of law—and not simply the trouble caused by granting legal status to those who have none. The problem is even more fundamental. In signing DACA, President Obama overstepped the bounds of his authority and violated the sacrosanct division of powers laid out in the Constitution. DACA was, and is, a usurpation of legislative power—it is a knife in Congress’ back (though in relieving the pressure lawmakers seem to feel about actually legislating on matters concerning immigration, it appears to be a welcome one).”

    Does Mr. Littwin believe a president should be allowed to use executive orders to unilaterally make laws? Or is he avoiding that question because his answer depends on which party holds the Oval Office much like Mr. Littwin’s cynical change of heart on Senate filibusters? Here’s what he said about filibusters in 2013:

    “If the filibuster is gone — or mostly gone — that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing if it’s bad for Republicans. It’s a good thing if it’s bad for Democrats. Either way, it’s still good for good government.”

    But excuse me if I don’t weep in either case.”

    There is no wiggle room in that response. Mr. Littwin is all in. He is unequivocally, indisputably, incontrovertibly in support of eliminating the Senate filibuster. But wait, this year Mr. Littwin has moved sharply away from his concerns about “good government”. And why? I’ll let Mr. Littwin explain, “And while I’m generally anti-filibuster, I make one exception for any and all years in which Donald Trump is president”.

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    So does Mr. Littwin believe presidents can make laws by executive order except “for any and all years in which Donald Trump is president”? The odds of Mr. Littwin answering that or any other DACA-related questions are roughly the same as Democrats finding a viable 2020 presidential candidate who is not Social Security eligible.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Green light a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

  3. An analogy for the red-blue debate: on stage, we see twenty brilliant, respectable, articulate, well-prepared, scientists. And representing the reds, we have the little toe from a left foot. (I was going to suggest a left buttock, but that’s too big to work in my analogy. But it would have been funny.) I think that would accurately depict the ratio of people-with-brains to deniers.

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