Like clockwork, Fox News host and radio personality Sean Hannity this week invited his “chief meteorologist” and climate denier Joe Bastardi on his radio and television shows to provide analysis of Hurricane Florence. Bastardi reassured Hannity that extreme weather events are not connected to climate change.
In August of last year, Hannity hosted Bastardi multiple times on his radio and TV shows to discuss Hurricane Harvey. Harvey -- which scientists determined was made worse by climate change -- devastated Houston, especially the city’s African-American communities. On the August 24 broadcast of Hannity’s radio show, Bastardi dismissed the impact of climate change on hurricanes like Harvey, saying, “We have to counter this agenda that it's because of a magic CO2 dust fairy that's throwing stuff in the air that's making it all happen.”
During a March 2018 nor’easter (by then the fourth winter storm to hit the East Coast within a three-week period), Bastardi appeared on Hannity’s radio show to cast doubt on climate change and its effect on extreme weather, despite scientific findings that climate change is likely playing a role in strengthening storms like nor’easters due to warmer oceans and a weakened jet stream.
Considering their history, it makes sense that Hannity would again host Bastardi to deny that global warming contributed to the dangerous, historic nature of Hurricane Florence. But the science of how climate change is increasing the size, strength, and reach of hurricanes like Florence is clear.
Regarding Florence specifically, a study conducted by researchers at Stony Brook University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory forecasted that “human interference in the climate system” contributed to the storm’s increased size, making it 50 miles wider than it would have been without climate change and increasing the amount of rain it will dump in the hardest-hit areas by 50 percent. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote about the connection between Florence and climate change in an op-ed for The Washington Post on September 12. In what reads as a rebuke to climate deniers like Bastardi, Holthaus noted:
Since modern tracking began, no hurricane with its origins in the hundreds-of-miles-wide patch of the central Atlantic where Florence traveled has ever made landfall on the East Coast, or even come close. Thanks to unusually warm ocean waters, Florence has intensified at one of the fastest rates in recorded history for a hurricane so far north. Thanks in part to unusually warm ocean waters between New England and Greenland, the atmosphere has formed a near-record-strength blocking pattern — not unlike the one that steered Sandy into New York Harbor in 2012 — that is propelling Florence toward the Southeast coastline. Another blocking pattern, expected to emerge later this week over the Great Lakes, could lock Florence in place for days — which would result in an abject freshwater flood that could extend hundreds of miles inland.
For decades, hurricane scientists fretted about when the effects of climate change would become apparent. Tropical meteorology is tricky, and in the past the models have given conflicting results. But on the East Coast, the trends are more clear: Stronger hurricanes are happening more often, and farther north. They are bringing more rain, and — as the seas rise, their coastal floods are literally changing the shape of the coastline.
Bastardi can continue ignoring the peer-reviewed consensus around climate change and extreme weather to provide aid and comfort to climate deniers like Hannity. But climate denial has been roundly rejected by his profession, which includes the American Meteorological Society and 95 percent of U.S. broadcast meteorologists.
From the September 13 episode of Fox News Channel’s Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Let me ask you this. You look at The Washington Post, they say, “Trump is complicit when it comes to extreme weather, Trump is complicit, he plays down humans' role,” et cetera, et cetera. You have been one of the -- everyone says that the science is irrefutable, and the science is in -- everybody agrees. Did Donald Trump cause the storm?
JOE BASTARDI (METEOROLOGIST): No, Donald Trump didn’t cause this storm. Of course not. Did he cause the seven major hurricanes that hit in the 1950s along the Eastern seaboard? If you had decades like the '30s, '40s, and '50s, people would think the apocalypse is coming. I wrote about this in my book; they’re weaponizing weather, politicizing weather, and they're doing it because of another agenda.
HANNITY: You mean we used to have more hurricanes than we do now, in past decades?
BASTARDI: Well, the amount of hurricanes [in] the last 50 years, from Florida to New England, is 37 percent of what it was the previous 50 years, so if there’s climate change going on, it's actually decreasing the amount of major hits. Look, this is dragging the weather and climate into the mud. I don't like it, but we have to live with it. The biggest thing is to get the forecast right, because if you do that, people will listen to you.
HANNITY: And, well, lives can be saved, that’s the important part of your science and what you do.
BASTARDI: Yes, that’s the important part.