'People Want to Debate the Causes ... I Feel Consequences.'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Does it ever feel like there are more and more headlines about apocalyptic forest fires, droughts, and blizzards? It’s not a mirage or a media creation:



If your job is to prepare for and respond to major natural disasters around the U.S., this is obviously going to affect the way you do your job. But don’t expect the nation’s top disaster planner to debate climate change.

“People want to debate the causes, I’m like, ‘Have a nice day.’ I feel consequences,” Craig Fugate, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told me recently. “Whether you want to say climate is a naturally occurring variable, whether you want to say it’s changing based on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, or if it’s divine interventions, throwing snowballs in the Senate well is not the answer.”

(That last line, if you missed it, is a shot at James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican senator and notorious climate-change denier who brought a chunk of the white fluffy stuff into the Capitol in February, suggesting it debunked global warming.)