Dr. Jane Orient: Not letting the hurricane crisis go to waste

By Dr. Jane Orient

Miami mayor Tomás Regalado and MSNBC’s Ali Velshi are looking beyond the suffering that Hurricane Irma is causing in Florida. It’s “an opportunity” to talk about climate change. “This is something that needs to be addressed. If Washington doesn’t want to do it, we will do it by ourselves,” said Mayor Regalado.

The mayor is one of a number of state and local politicians, including California’s Governor Jerry Brown, who intend to implement local anti-climate change measures despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords.

The two especially fierce hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, are not just natural phenomena, some activists say, but God’s (or Nature’s) judgment—for using “fossil fuels” that emit carbon dioxide, thus causing “climate change” (if not “global warming,” the previous name for the crisis).

“Is this [Irma] a harbinger of things to come?” is the question in a featured posting by Physicians for Social Responsibility. [These disasters] remind us that “we must take urgent action now against climate change.” Actions include scaling back our use of fossil fuels and transitioning to “clean, carbon-free energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal.” Otherwise we will experience more frequent, more intense storms, and more “beyond-anything-experienced” flooding.

The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health states: “The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change concluded that addressing climate change is the greatest public health opportunity of the 21st century, and failure to adequately address it could undo most of the progress in global health over the past century.”

In response to such concerns, the first question in the Climate Change IQ project just launched by Doctors for Disaster Preparedness is: “Would lowering atmospheric CO2 prevent or mitigate hurricanes?”

The answer is clearly “No.”

Hurricane season has been very quiet for 12 years, until now. And over the past 140 years, the trend in hurricane frequency and intensity has been downward, even if Irma is included—even though atmospheric CO2 has constantly increased. The worst natural disaster in U.S. history, which killed up to 12,000 people, was the Galveston hurricane and floods—in 1900.

So what are the real, urgent needs of people facing these devastating disasters, in the context of the climate activists’ agenda?

Fuel. The millions of people in Florida ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm were running out of gasoline (a “fossil fuel”). Emergency measures were needed, such as lifting some regulations, to bring more gasoline and diesel into the state. In Texas, long lines of vehicles pulling boats brought the “Cajun Navy” to Houston to rescue people. The boats needed fuel too. These people are likely not in favor of suing Exxon Mobil and other suppliers for their supposed share in the damage allegedly caused by the 8 inches of sea level rise that have occurred since 1880.

Electricity. Millions of Floridians will be without power, likely for weeks. That means no air conditioning and no refrigeration for food. And how will hospitals cope? Emergency generators can only provide so much.

Is the answer more wind and solar? Wind turbines have to shut down when the wind speed reaches around 55 mph. (The Labor Day hurricane of 1935 had wind speeds exceeding 200 mph.) They also shut down during a blackout as they require power from the grid. Solar panels will not produce power during a storm, and will they still be there afterward?

The safest and most robust power source is nuclear. Physicians for Social Responsibility opposes it. Some advocated shutting down Texas and Florida plants ahead if the storms. One stated concern was inability to keep water flowing over the spent fuel rods stored on site. Where are they kept? They just sit at the bottom of the “swimming pool.” The late Galen Windsor, when he was safety manager at a nuclear power station, enjoyed skinny dipping in the pool; the water was nice and warm.

Clean water and safe sewage disposal. The biggest health risk, aside from drowning, is probably widespread water contamination, leading to epidemic water-borne infectious disease. What is needed to repair water mains and purify water? Abundant fuel and electricity. Mosquito control. The hurricane will blow away mosquitoes too, but they will be back. No global warming needed—just standing water.

These latest natural disasters should remind us of the fierce power of Nature, and our utter dependence on abundant, reliable energy to survive and recover. The climate-change agenda is all about restricting our energy supply to sources most vulnerable to destruction in a crisis.


Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. She completed an internal medicine residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital and University of Arizona Affiliated Hospitals and then became an Instructor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and a staff physician at the Tucson Veterans Administration Hospital. She has been in solo private practice since 1981 and has served as Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) since 1989. She is currently president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. Since 1988, she has been chairman of the Public Health Committee of the Pima County (Arizona) Medical Society. She is the author of YOUR Doctor Is Not In: Healthy Skepticism about National Healthcare, and the second through fourth editions of Sapira’s Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis published by Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. She authored books for schoolchildren,Professor Klugimkopf’s Old-Fashioned English Grammar and Professor Klugimkopf’s Spelling Method, published by Robinson Books, and coauthored two novels published as Kindle books, Neomorts and Moonshine. More than 100 of her papers have been published in the scientific and popular literature on a variety of subjects including risk assessment, natural and technological hazards and nonhazards, and medical economics and ethics. She is the editor of AAPS News, the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, and Civil Defense Perspectives, and is the managing editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.



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