“Causality is something outside of my ability to analyze right now,” Homeland Security advisor Tom Bossert told reporters during a press briefing on Monday. “There’s a cyclical nature to a lot of these hurricanes. We continue to take seriously the climate change, not the cause of it, but the things we observe.”
The White House will have to perform a “trend analysis” sometime in the future, he added.
Bossert’s comments followed ones made last week by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who said on Friday that it was “insensitive” to bring up climate change as the storm was unfolding.
“To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” he told CNN.
While― as HuffPost France noted last week― scientists haven’t reached a consensus on whether rising temperatures causes more storms, the scientific community has long warned that climate change will lead to more extreme weather events. The impact of storms is even more widely-accepted. As French meteorologist Robert Vautard told HuffPost France:
“The atmosphere is going to warm up and will therefore contain more water,” he said. “Which means more rain.”
And more rain means more flooding, which can be just as damaging as a hurricane’s strong winds, as Harvey demonstrated.
Another certainty is that climate change is causing sea levels to rise, which means greater storm surges and higher waves when a storm hits the coast.
“Knowing these two things, it’s safe to say that hurricanes affecting low-elevation islands will therefore cause greater damage, even if they have the same features as today’s do,” said Vautard.
Miami mayor Tomás Regalado, who is a Republican, urged the administration to use the hurricane as a jumping off point for a larger push against climate change.
“If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is,” he said last week. “This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change.”
The White House response is by no means surprising. Both President Donald Trump, who has referred to climate change as a “hoax,” and Pruitt, have a history of climate change denial. Since taking office, Trump pulled out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement and disbanded a presidential climate change panel.
The Trump administration’s attitude on climate change is stark contrast from its predecessor’s.
“Climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it might have made it stronger,” former president Barack Obama said in 2015. The year before, he warned that storms like Sandy would likely grow more common and stronger over time as climate change continues to intensify.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.