The relentless series of natural disasters across North America this month has a lot of people existentially stressed and as Americans are apt to do, many have tried to cope with humor. People have found comfort in the post-hurricane antics of Texans, the Mordor-esque fires in California and Montana, and the Floridian defiance toward Irma. However, one vein of humorous response toward these disasters that is decidedly not OK is blaming it on climate change deniers. Everyone has got to stop joking about Hurricane Karma, because these statements hurt more than they help.
Since Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Gulf Coast two weeks ago, people have clung to this notion that somehow the victims of this tragedy deserved it. French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cover depicting Nazis drowning in the Texas flood waters. A professor at the University of Tampa was fired for tweeting that the storm was "instant Karma" for Texas having elected Trump. With the onslaught of natural disasters in the interim, this concept has picked up steam. Raw Story published a piece Friday about Hurricane Karma (Irma) targeting the private Florida estates of conservatives such as Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh.
They may provide a short laugh, but jokes like this ignore the existence of the millions of other people who are affected by these disasters. The Houston area, which was the most devastated in Hurricane Harvey, voted for Hillary Clinton by a 13-point margin in the 2016 presidential election. The city isn't a reflection of stereotypes about white supremacists; its Latinx and black population outnumber the white population by two to one, and it has elected Democratic mayors for the last 20 years straight.
Likewise, Coulter, Limbaugh, Trump, and the other wealthy residents of south Florida aren't indicative of the region — in fact, Tampa and Miami, respectively, have the two lowest media incomes of any cities in the country according to 2010 census data. All conversation about Irma should be focused on reducing disparities based on race and class as the storm approaches, because there's simply no time to waste right now on issues that don't truly matter.
This framework also reinforces some of the most misinformed ideas of those climate change deniers: that some omnipowerful being is in charge of the weather and chooses when to send storms as punishment. Conservative pundit Coulter said the same thing about Houston when she tweeted that the city earned its beating during Hurricane Harvey by electing a lesbian mayor. It doesn't sound any less ignorant when you claim that Irma is being directed at her.
Hurricanes form for completely scientific reasons, not because any malevolent god decides to test humanity or punish individuals. Proffering dogma to the contrary, which isn't supported by most major theologies, distracts them from the real causes of these increasingly frequent superstorms. Climate change is still too serious and misunderstood of an issue for anyone to be joking about in a way that even pretends to support stereotypes. People need factual, relevant information about the links between extreme weather and climate change, or at the very least jokes that are more scientifically accurate.
The belief in a just world is a wonderful fallacy — it can be soothing to think that people get what they deserve in life. However, everyone has to grow up and accept that bad things happen to good people, without reason, and it's not fair. People need to focus on what's real, not what provides them comfort, and right now, regular people just like you and me are suffering. They are the ones who need attention and publicity, not conservative celebrities.