Scientists may disagree on the degree to which anthropogenic (or human-caused) climate change intensified [Hurricane] Harvey, but almost all concurred that Houston’s lack of preparation for it magnified its ramifications.
Urbanization turned prairies and forests into concrete, reducing the land’s capacity to absorb rainfall, and lax zoning codes gave way to development more prone to cave to the flooding. Paired with an explosion in the city’s population, the damages snowballed.
Many of the scientists we spoke with nonetheless stressed that in addition to infrastructure, lawmakers must focus on addressing climate change.
"We’re doing a huge disservice if we put off the reality that we are changing the climate and the sea levels if we wait until we do fancy analyses (on storms like Harvey) years later. It’s time to face up to the fact that some of these are going to become the new norm," said Harold Wanless, chair of the geological sciences department at the University of Miami.