Hurricane Harvey

2017 in Photos: Capturing the Causes and Impacts of Climate Change

Read time: 4 mins
A dance troop marches past a Shell refinery in Norco, Louisiana's annual Christmas parade

The year 2017 was, in many ways, stormy. It brought more storms super-sized due to global warming and more people, including scientists, taking to the streets in response to the political climate.

This year for DeSmog I continued documenting a range of issues related to climate change, from extreme weather enhanced by it to the expanding industrial landscape contributing to it. 

Pruitt’s Plan to Debate Climate Science Paused as Science Confirms Human Link to Extreme Weather

Read time: 7 mins
Chairs floating in Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas

The same week that a slew of new scientific reports confirmed just how much humans are changing the climate, and in turn, the rest of the planet, Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt’s plans for a “Red Team, Blue Team” debate of this very same science were put on hold.

The military-style exercise that would falsely pit the overwhelming majority of climate scientists against a handful of non-experts is an eight-year-old talking point of the notorious climate-denying think tank the Heartland Institute (which is likely not surprised by this development). Meanwhile, last week in New Orleans, several groups of prominent climate scientists shared their latest findings at the world's largest gathering of Earth and planetary scientists. The roughly 25,000 attendees of the American Geophysical Union annual meeting included scientific leaders from academia, government, and the private sector.

Exxon Refinery Catches Fire Day After Government Settles Over Pollution From Other Gulf Plants

Read time: 5 mins
ExxonMobil’s refinery and chemical plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Early morning skies Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were alight from a fire that started around 2:30 a.m. at an ExxonMobil refinery. The blaze, though contained before the sun came up, is a reminder to the surrounding community of yet another danger of living next to refineries and chemical plants.

Exxon’s refinery is located along the stretch of Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans known as “Cancer Alley” due to the high number of chemical plants and refineries — and illnesses possibly connected to emissions — along the river’s banks.

Minority Communities Suffer from Storms as GOP and Trump Admin Promote Oil and Gas

Read time: 7 mins
Pat Harris in her storm-damaged housing complex in Port Arthur, Texas

While victims in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still reeling from the devastation of three hurricanes worsened by a warming climate, the Trump administration and GOP senators in the Gulf continued to push fossil fuel extraction.

On October 18, two senators who reject the science of climate change, Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), teamed up to introduce a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for exporting small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG). And on October 24, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke proposed the largest ever sale of oil and gas leases in the United States. The plan would offer nearly 77 million acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico for auction to the fossil fuel industry.

Why Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Won't Lead to Action on Climate Change

Read time: 6 mins
Man standing in floodwaters in front of damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida

By Scott Gabriel Knowles, Drexel University

It’s not easy to hold the nation’s attention for long, but three solid weeks of record-smashing hurricanes directly affecting multiple states and at least 20 million people will do it.

Clustered disasters hold our attention in ways that singular events cannot — they open our minds to the possibility that these aren’t just accidents or natural phenomena to be painfully endured. As such, they can provoke debates over the larger “disaster lessons” we should be learning. And I would argue the combination of Harvey and Irma has triggered such a moment.

From Homes to Refineries, Finding Pollution and Loss in Harvey's Path

Read time: 7 mins
Mobil station with floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey

When Harvey’s rain, for the most part, stopped falling on August 30, I started making my way from Louisiana to Texas to document the pollution inevitably left in the storm’s path. That day I got as far as Vidor, a small town in southeast Texas where the floodwaters were still rising. 

Getting there was no easy matter. I was forced to drive west in the eastbound lane of the interstate because the lanes I should have been driving in were flooded up to the top of the highway divider. All the while, I tried not to worry about the water rushing through cracks in the cement divider, which had the potential to give way.

Hurricane Harvey Hits Home for Texas Environmental Hero Hilton Kelley

Read time: 6 mins
Hilton Kelley in front of his flooded home in Port Arthur, Texas

Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters were still receding from Port Arthur, Texas, on September 4, when Hilton Kelley and his wife Marie returned to their home and business for the first time since evacuating. 

Port Arthur is located about 100 miles east of Houston on the Gulf Coast. The heavily industrialized area rivals Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, with an even greater concentration of hazardous waste and petrochemical facilities.

Kelley is intimately familiar with the town’s refineries. He spent the last 17 years fighting for clean air and water in the Port Arthur community adjacent to those refineries. His work earned him the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which is awarded to “grassroots environmental heroes” ― something of a Nobel Prize for environmentalists. 

Hurricane Harvey, Climate Denial, Fake News and ExxonMobil

Read time: 8 mins

By Kert Davies, crossposted from Climate Investigations Center

For well over twenty years, climate deniers have tried to stymie discussion of extreme weather events and climate change. Why? Because extreme weather kills people, destroys property, trashes things and costs billions of dollars.  And that’s when people start searching for accountability and looking for who to blame.

Hurricane Harvey’s damage is breaking records. Who will pay, remains an unanswered question.  What we do know is that a concerted campaign of climate denial, over the past three decades, has measurably slowed down society’s reaction to the climate crisis and has wasted valuable time and money.

What Hurricane Harvey Says About Risk, Climate, and Resilience

Read time: 5 mins
Hurricane Harvey from space

By Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M UniversityDaniel Cohan, Rice University, and Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University

Hurricane Harvey has taught us many lessons, but the most valuable may be the oldest lesson of all, one we humans have been learning — and forgetting — since the dawn of time: how much we all have to lose when climate and weather disasters strike.

12 Years After Katrina, Hurricane Harvey Pummels Gulf Coast and Its Climate Science-Denying Politicians

Read time: 7 mins
Debris from people's homes in the street sit across from Press Park, a housing project abandoned after Hurricane Katrina

As the remnants of Hurricane Harvey (now a tropical storm) continue to flood Houston — just days before the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina — I visited Shannon Rainey, whose house was built on top of a Superfund site in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Rainey is worried about family members in Houston. She knows all too well how long it can take to get back what is lost in a storm. “I still live with Katrina every day,” she told me.

New Orleans remains threatened by bands of rain extending from Harvey, causing many residents with fierce memories of Katrina to remain on edge.

Subscribe to Hurricane Harvey