We’re all at the mercy of the other people in the world who share our name. Consider how sickening it must have been to be an Adolf as the full extent of the Fuhrer’s crimes was revealed. Still, not just people can spoil a name: The most famous Katrina of the 21st century was a deadly storm, and in recent years its popularity as a baby name is reported to have collapsed.
The climate-change group 350 Action wants to take advantage of this guilt-by-association. Why, the organization asks, should innocent Andrews and Hugos and Sandys be tied to lethal meteorological disasters? Why not link the storms to people who have been complicit in creating them?
But who are those people? According to 350 Action, they are climate-change skeptics in public office. A warmer planet, many climatologists argue, is one in which tropical storms are more frequent and more violent. (This magazine has made clear its position on the issue.)
The organization is circulating an online petition to name storms after politicians who have publicly questioned the idea that human beings are causing the planet to warm or who have voted against legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions—legislators such as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A Web video that accompanies the petition offers a series of mock news clips, complete with wind-whipped, sodden, on-the-scene correspondents, in which newscasters intone things like: ”Senator Marco Rubio [R-Fla] is expected to pound the Eastern Seaboard sometime early tonight” and “Senator David Vitter [R-La.] is turning out to be one of the hugest and costliest disasters in American history.” So far the petition has accumulated nearly 92,300 signatures.
It’s almost certain that the World Meteorological Organization, which is responsible for naming Atlantic storms, will ignore the petition. And350 Action is aware of this—requests for answers and comment from both organizations hadn’t been answered by Tuesday morning.
There’s ample precedent for politicians being linked to disasters—from Hoovervilles to Hillarycare, but that’s a more unofficial, organic process. Besides, the names of the next five years’ worth of Atlantic storms have already been set—the World Meteorological Organization has a strict procedure for the process, recycling the list of names every six years and retiring a name only if a storm attached to it has been particularly deadly or costly. Next year’s first storm will be Arthur.
Much of this information can be found on the National Hurricane Center website. On the site’s FAQ section, the first question is: “Can I have a tropical cyclone named for me?” Evidently, not everyone agrees with 350 Action that the association is undesirable.