Watch Jake Tapper explain the connection between climate change and more extreme storms during a segment on Hurricane Idalia

Tapper: “A lot of this can be traced back to a misinformation campaign funded by the oil companies”

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Citation From the August 30, 2023, edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper

JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Tropical storm Idalia is just one of multiple destructive weather events as Americans endure a summer of intense, relentless natural disasters. 


For years we've heard that climate change is a growing threat. This year, we've seen all sorts of real extremes across the United States from Hawaii to Georgia. Is the average American, do you think, now starting to understand that climate change is here and having a disastrous effect? 

DR. CORENE MATYAS (GUEST): It's hard to say what the average American might think but scientists all agree that there's been a change over the long-term and the conditions that we're facing and that does come with extremes in our weather conditions. 

TAPPER: And Chad, talk about how climate change played a role in intensifying Hurricane Idalia. What impact could it have had?

CHAD MYERS (GUEST): You know, we've been talking about the water temperature around The Keys now for what seems like months and how there's going to be this coral event likely bleaching event. The water has been in record warmth territory. 

Now, Idalia would likely have happened anyway, but you cannot tell because of where it started, what would have happened had the water not been 5 or 6 degrees warmer than it should have been. 

We don't have hurricanes in the winter because the water's not warm enough. It only starts in June. Well, now it's starting in May. It's supposed to be over in November, but sometimes we get it in December.

It's the warmth of the water that caused Idalia to be significantly stronger than it likely would have been had the water temperature been normal. 

TAPPER: Dr. Matyas, climate change, obviously, is fueling more dangerous storms. As it relates to hurricanes, let's flash forward ten years. What might it look like for Americans who live along the coastlines such as the west coast of Florida? Other impacted areas? Are there difficult questions to be asked about whether people should rebuild in some of these areas? 

MATYAS:  Well, those are difficult questions and they're already being asked as we know that there's sea level rise happening and "normal tides" now are higher than they used to be. So, there's a lot more flooding that's happening even when there isn't a storm available. 

And so when you have a devastating storm and even winter systems can cause a lot of beach erosion and building damage along the shore. So, not just tropical systems, but also winter systems. There's got to be a lot of mitigation or adaptation decisions that need to be made. 

TAPPER: Chad, this summer, we've seen thousands of heat records broken. Ocean temperatures at hot tub levels. Extraordinary wildfires. California, Hawaii. Earth's hottest month on record. What are the practical impacts that this is happening and will continue to have on people's day-to-day lives? 

MYERS: The people that live in the urban-wildlife interface, right when you back up a home into a forest, your threat of a forest fire now, of a wildfire, has grown significantly. 

We are growing things in the wet season, and sometimes they're wetter, and we're drying out the forests and the wildland when it is dry. And it is a bigger swing from wetter to dry. Typically, we used to see this when it was El Niño, La Niña. You get a big El Nino event, it starts to rain, and California grows things -- grass, all the chaparral, and then it dies and then it burns. But now, there isn't a wildfire season. It's just the wildfire year. 

TAPPER: Dr. Matyas, there remains not just political polarization on this issue, but continued misinformation about the causes of climate change. Polls shows Republican voters far less likely to believe human actions are the root cause. A lot of this can be traced back to a misinformation campaign funded by the oil companies, decades ago. How do you help people understand the science behind this and the storms such as this, do they change minds? 

MATYAS: As a scientist, I work with the data. And so we have really good collection of data these days and models that can show us how the different conditions line up. And so part of my job as a university professor is to educate the generations that are coming through the university and teaching them science. And then they go and make their own informed decisions based on that. 

TAPPER: Do you encounter skeptics? Students that don't believe it? And if so, what do you do? 

MATYAS: Well, we stick to the facts. We have testable hypothesis and you know, we verify our data sources. We used methods that are scientifically proven. And so yes, sometimes we do have a debate about it but at the end of the day, we let the data speak for themselves.