President Joe Biden gave a speech addressing the impact of Hurricane Ida after it wreaked havoc on the northeastern coast of the United States, leaving 45 people dead in the New York City area. The president remarked that the storm is a rude awakening in our new era of the climate crisis.
“The past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the West and the unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder that these extreme storms in the climate crisis are here,” Biden said in a speech he gave from the White House. “We need to be much better prepared.”
Rainfall flooded New York and New Jersey for a period of over 6 hours hours on Wednesday night, leaving neighborhoods, restaurants, apartments, and subway stations flooded in several feet of water. Biden pointed to these scenes as dramatic signs that America’s infrastructure–especially the ones of its major cities–were in need of major improvements in order to withstand the new challenges posed by climate change:
“When Congress returns this month, I’m going to press further action on my Build Back Better plan that’s going to make historic investments in electrical infrastructure, modernizing our roads, bridges, our water systems, sewer and drainage systems, electric grids and transmission lines, and make them more resilient to these superstorms, wildfires and floods that are going to happen with increasing frequency and ferocity,” the president said.
Biden and Schumer see Hurricane Ida as a sign of a new era of the climate crisis: “Global warming is upon us”
Hurricane Ida rocked the U.S.’s largest city suddenly on Wednesday night. State emergencies were declared in New York and New Jersey while the National Weather Service issued its first-ever emergency flash flood warning for New York City, urging residents to move to higher ground.
By Thursday evening, around 38,000 homes in Pennsylvania, 24,000 in New Jersey and 12,000 in New York were without power, according to the website poweroutage.us, a significant decrease from earlier in the day.
It is rare for such storms to strike America’s northeastern seaboard and comes as the surface layer of oceans warms due to climate change.
The warming is causing cyclones to become more powerful and carry more water, posing an increasing threat to the world’s coastal communities, scientists say.
“Global warming is upon us and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it,” said Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.
Globally, extreme rainfall events are becoming more common because of human-caused global warming. Across continental US, specifically, the heaviest downpours have been observed to be increasing in all regions, with the northeast showing the largest increase, according to the US National Climate Assessment.
“Warmer air can contain more water vapor than cooler air. Global analyses show that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has in fact increased over both land and oceans,” the report says.
The media’s reckoning with the climate crisis
These stark, unflinching statements from politicians are coming at a moment where the media is a startlingly reticent on the impact of the climate crisis. While most major networks have been reporting on the floods in Tennessee and Hurricane Ida, they are wary of connecting these extreme weather disasters to the phrase “climate change,” and very infrequently use the term on air.
Six of America’s major news stations–ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and MSNBC– reported on Hurricane Ida 774 times between August 27-30, but only 34 of those stories acknowledged climate change.
While major news networks cannot ignore catastrophic weather events as they happen, they appear to be treating them as isolated incidents and choosing not to connect them to a larger narrative surrounding climate change, a grand-scale view that president Biden is urging Americans to be aware of now more than ever.