Climate Change or Climate Breakdown? Hurricane Harvey suggests the latter.

It is to expose a programme that relies on robbing the future to fuel the present, that demands perpetual growth on a finite planet. It is to challenge the very basis of capitalism; to inform us that our lives are dominated by a system that cannot be sustained – a system that is destined, if it is not replaced, to destroy everything.

Is the above quotation from Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’? It has a very similar tone and sense of urgency. But it is not. It is taken directly from an article by the Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, on 29th August 2017, concerning Hurricane Harvey.

Comparative graphic indicating the rains dumped by Hurricanes Katrina (August 2005) and Harvey (August 2017)

Hurricane Harvey took the USA, literally, by storm. The amount of precipitation and destructive deluge it dumped upon the oil rich state of Texas is what shocked US authorities, even those still in denial of Climate Change.

Hurricane Katrina dumped 6.5 billion gallons of rain on New Orleans between 23-31 August 2005. By contrast, Hurricane Harvey dumped 20 billion gallons of rain on Houston, Texas, in a similar period.

It’s as if Mother Nature was delivering a warning, especially to one of the world’s most prolific producers of carbon pollution. Yet, is it falling on deaf ears? Even amongst the so-called liberal media?

The Guardian’s George Monbiot believes it is. He has penned a brilliant critique of the US media’s reportage of Hurricane Harvey and their reluctance to name it for what it is – the direct consequence of Climate Change.

But even then Monbiot remains critical of the appellation ‘Climate Change’. The term Climate Change is too bland in his opinion. He prefers to describe what is happening as Climate Breakdown. And, in truth, that’s exactly what it is. And the consequence of its catastrophic encroachments we have observed, as Irish missionaries, for decades on many vulnerable communities and regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America, without fully understanding what was happening. Now we do, with the backing of the scientific community, irrespective of the opinion or denials of a Simpsons’ cartoon prophesy.   

Climate Change is not an accident Monbiot argues. But it is unlikely, for the foreseeable future, to become a policy issue:

It reflects a deeply ingrained and scarcely conscious self-censorship. Reporters and editors ignore the subject because they have an instinct for avoiding trouble. To talk about climate breakdown (which in my view is a better term than the curiously bland labels we attach to this crisis) is to question not only Trump, not only current environmental policy, not only current economic policy – but the entire political and economic system.

It is to expose a programme that relies on robbing the future to fuel the present, that demands perpetual growth on a finite planet. It is to challenge the very basis of capitalism; to inform us that our lives are dominated by a system that cannot be sustained – a system that is destined, if it is not replaced, to destroy everything.

Monbiot’s piece is one of the most searing critiques to date and places Hurricane Harvey in a wider and worrying global context. This is a MUST READ!

You can access the full article by clicking here.