Schumer: 'If We Did More on Climate Change, We’d Have Fewer of These Hurricanes'

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol

WASHINGTON -- Amid daylight assessments of the toll inflicted on the southeast by Hurricane Michael, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor today that "if we did more on climate change, we’d have fewer of these hurricanes and other types of storms."

"Everyone knows that, except for a few. Why? Why won’t they admit the truth? Maybe there are two words that explain it: oil industry," he said.

Michael made landfall close to a Category 5 storm on Wednesday afternoon, ripping apart Florida panhandle buildings and severely damaging Tyndall Air Force Base.

Two deaths have been reported due to the hurricane, which inflicted heavy winds and rain across Georgia and the Carolinas this morning on its march up the coast. More than 900,000 homes and businesses were without power this morning.

"This year has seen huge a number of powerful storms and hurricanes buffet the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf. Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and now Michael have wrought severe damages. According to NOAA, 2017 was the most expensive year on record for disasters in the US. At some point, we have to acknowledge that the intensity of these storms is much greater than in past years and is a symptom of a changing climate," Schumer said. "Climate change is real, it is being driven by human activity, it is happening right now. These are facts; they are not in dispute. Our scientists know it, our businesses know it, the world knows it, and the American people know."

"But too many senators on the other side of the aisle just put their head in the sand," he added. "It costs us more, and more, and more."

Schumer cited a new UN report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that says there's currently a 12-year window to make “far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to avert dramatic effects of global warming.

"So while we are thinking about the people of Florida and Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and everyone in Hurricane Michael’s path, let’s remember that we are running out of time to do something about climate change, and the kind of storms we are seeing now will only increase if this body continues to keep its head in the sand, ostrichlike, and ignore the scientific realities," he added.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was asked at a Wednesday meeting of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee if climate change is a security threat to the homeland.

"We measure out rain storms now, the amount of rain by the foot, not by the inch," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). "We have parts of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, even California where they -- they're on fire, they've been on fire earlier this year. Places bigger than my state, a big state I might add. And the extreme weather we've had, I think in the last 100 years, 33 Category 5 hurricanes in the whole Atlantic."

"I think it's very serious. As you said, just in 2017 alone, 15 percent of the United States population was affected by either a hurricane or a forest fire. So the intensity, the changes in weather patterns, the changes in which the hazards manifest all require us to update everything we do," Nielsen replied.

She added that pre-mitigation grants "will really help to prepare areas, but we have to increase our modeling."

"We're working much more closely with NOAA, working much more closely with the Department of Interior, USDA," Nielsen added. "We have to do more to anticipate and understand how these start to manifest."