Climate Change Makes Storms Worse. We Must Cut Emissions.

Climate Week starts this week in New York City. More than 150 world leaders are gathering for the U.N. General Assembly. We talk to Michael Mann, a climate scientist, about how climate change has affected the pattern of tropical storms and what can be done to address this crisis. He claims that rising global temperatures have made it more difficult to control storms like these and that Congress must pass more aggressive climate legislation. “We are experiencing devastating consequences of past climate inaction, and it really drives home the importance of taking action now,” says Mann.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Today marks the beginning of Climate Week in New York City. More than 150 world leaders will be attending the United Nations General Assembly. Some of them are arriving from Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. President Biden is scheduled to address the forum Wednesday afternoon, a day earlier than usual. The Barbados prime minister will speak on Thursday about her proposal for a financial settlement to help vulnerable countries pay off their debts from climate catastrophes. In light of rising energy bills, governments are being pressured to fulfill their pledges to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Ahead of the 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had this warning for world leaders.

SECRETARYGENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: Many decision-makers around the globe seem to have made climate change a secondary priority. This is a tragic move. We see rising emissions, and fossil fuels becoming more fashionable, when we know fossil fuels are the main reason for the war against nature we have waged throughout our history.

AMY GOODMAN: Activists have also planned a week of actions at this year’s Climate Week, which comes after a summer of heat waves and floods around the world. A third of Pakistan is now underwater after Pakistan suffered one of the worst climate catastrophes in its history. Hurricane season is again underway, with Hurricane Fiona battering Puerto Rico, as just described, as well as Typhoon Merbok, which flooded parts of western Alaska in what some are calling the state’s worst storm in half a century. 9 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes in Japan after one of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the country made landfall on Sunday night.

To talk about all of this, we’re joined by Michael Mann, the presidential distinguished professor and director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and the Media. He’s now at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.

Professor Mann, welcome back Democracy Now! You’ve just heard about Puerto Rico. We’ve got Japan, we’ve got Alaska, Pakistan a third underwater. Your response? What ties it all together? Explain what’s happening.

MICHAEL MANN: Yeah, Amy, I would say it’s good to be with you, but we rarely have good news to discuss. These are the consequences of climate change, and we are seeing them in action. This isn’t 10 years into the future. It’s not way off in the Arctic. It’s where we live now. We are seeing the terrible consequences of climate inaction. It really makes it clear how important it is to act now.

You know, the physics isn’t that difficult here. You make the planet warmer, you’re going to get more heat. You’re going to get more intense and more frequent heat waves, like we’ve seen this summer and every summer in recent history. If the atmosphere is warmer, it retains moisture. These flooding events are what you get. You get the sort of devastating flooding that we’re seeing right now with these landfalling hurricanes. You heat the soils in the summer and dry them more. This leads to more drought. We see that the combination of heat and drought can cause devastating wildfires. And so, this isn’t rocket science. The physics here is very basic, and it tells us that we’re reaping what we’ve sown. We’re now experiencing devastating climate impacts.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you now talk about what you think is necessary? And the significance of — I mean, you are a scientist. You were at Penn State, now you’re at University of Pennsylvania. The way climate science was disparaged — now, I think, so much more embraced all over the world. What must happen now, in the midst Climate Week here in New York, and just before the U.N. COP? What do countries actually have to agree to?

MICHAEL MANN: You know what the worst thing that could happen to a climate scientist? That your predictions turn out to be true. And that’s what we’re seeing happen. And so, you know, those who used to deny the reality of climate change, they can’t anymore, because, of course, we are all now seeing the impacts with our own two eyes. That doesn’t mean they’ve given up. Polluters are still using every tool in the book — and that’s what my book is about — to try to prevent the actions that are necessary.

So what are our next steps? Look, we need to recognize we’ve made some real progress here. the Inflation Reduction Act here in the United States is by far the most comprehensive climate legislation that’s ever passed the U.S. Congress. It helps us get on the right track to limit global warming to below 3 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the point where we see the most severe consequences of climate change. It starts to get us on that path, but it doesn’t quite get there, and so we need to go further. We must reduce carbon emissions by at least half of the US by 2030. The IRAInflation Reduction act, may get us to 40%. So we’ve got to go further than that.

Joe Manchin, a Democrat from the coal state, is currently the gatekeeper for climate legislation. Only climate legislation that’s approved by him can pass under these current sort of — in our current politics. That’s why voters need to turn out in droves in these midterm elections, so we can get a large enough majority of climate advocates, Democrats and others who support climate action, in Congress, so that we can go further, so we can get more aggressive climate legislation passed, that will put a price on carbon, that will provide more subsidies for renewable energy, that will block new fossil fuel infrastructure. The minimum requirement is the IEANo cheerleader for renewable energy has ever said that we must keep the temperature below 3 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent global warming. That means we can’t continue to fund new pipeline projects as we’re currently doing here in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is a Category 2 hurricane, like Fiona, that just swept through Puerto Rico — we don’t even know the extent of the damage as it moves on to the Dominican Republic — causing so much damage in Puerto Rico compared to a Category 5 Hurricane Maria? Also, why — what’s the significance of it appearing so late in hurricane season? And then, also, why the hurricane that has now — the typhoon that has hit Japan is considered like the worst in half a century? What’s the cause?

MICHAEL MANN: Yeah, so, again, it’s pretty basic. The warming of the oceans, the planet’s warming up, the oceans are warming up, that means there’s more energy. There’s more evaporation from the oceans. And it’s that evaporation that provides the energy to intensify those storms, and it’s what provides them all of that moisture. As a result, we see more flooding, stronger and more intense storms. And that’s what we’re seeing over time.

Now, the vagaries of any particular storm — we can’t say this storm wouldn’t have happened if not for climate change. We can only say that this particular storm was stronger, more severe, and wetter than it would otherwise have been due to climate change. That direct link can be found.

AMY GOODMAN: The comparison of the Atlantic storms to Pacific storms?

MICHAEL MANN: Yeah, this is a global — you know, the physics here don’t respect individual ocean basins. Warmer oceans can lead to more powerful hurricanes or typhoons. This can also cause worse flooding. And that’s really what we’re seeing here. This is just the tip of an iceberg. We can stop this from getting worse by reducing carbon emissions, which I mentioned, to 50% within the next decade and to zero by midcentury. We can stop further warming the planet and worsening these effects. All of this will only get worse if we continue to use fossil fuels. This is just a glimpse at what lies ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Mann, we are grateful for your presence at Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and the Media. His most recent book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.

Next up is Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. We’ll speak with Kehinde Andrews, the U.K.’s first professor of Black studies, author of The New Age of Empire – How Racism, Colonialism, and Other Means Still Rule the World. Stay with us.