Back-to-back hurricanes fueled by warm Atlantic waters may have altered the coasts of Texas and Florida, but there’s no indication they are shifting the politics of climate change.

“We cannot ignore that carbon emissions are causing our ocean temperatures to get warmer, which is fueling more powerful hurricanes,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, at a lightly attended hearing on carbon-capture technology.

Yet that is exactly what many are doing on an issue that increasingly breaks down along partisan lines. Republicans in charge of the House and Senate haven’t scheduled hearings to examine the phenomenon. President Trump has ignored shouted questions on the topic and administration officials have brushed the whole issue aside as a distraction.

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told CNN it is “very, very insensitive” to storm victims to “have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm versus helping people.”

Research shows monster storms may only harden people’s position, underscoring already entrenched beliefs about the role humans play in warming the planet.

“The climate movement can’t depend on the weather to make its political case,” said Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University who studies environmental activism. “We have a window of opportunity to draw attention to the issue – and then three weeks from now we’ll be talking about something else.”

Environmental disasters, including an oil spill off the California coast, toxic pollution emanating from New York’s Love Canal and Ohio’s Cuyahoga River bursting into flames, helped catalyze the modern-day ecological movement, shifting public views. But unlike climate change, the causes were clearer; there was no need for scientists to interpret data or model scenarios.

It’s much harder to attack the science of an oil spill, Brulle said. “You can’t have a tactic of denying the science when you can see it right there with your very eyes.”

Some environmental activists say Hurricanes Harvey and Irma should be a wake-up call, vividly illustrating the potential consequences of extreme weather events made worse by climate change. Scientists haven’t linked either hurricane directly to climate change – and they may never be able to – although they stress that global warming is leading to more intense, more frequent storms.

Decades into the debate over climate change, people’s views on the subject are tied up with their political ideology. And it takes more than 185-mile-per-hour winds to change their beliefs.

People in areas that have experienced extreme weather are only marginally more likely to support climate policies such as elevation requirements and restrictions on coastal development, according to research published in the September issue of “Global Environmental Change.” Instead, political party identification is a much bigger factor in how people viewed the issue, according to the study that examined public opinion data coupled with geographic information about extreme weather events.

And any changes in thinking after extreme weather are likely to be temporary.

“There was no discernible difference after a month between people who experienced more extreme weather and those who did not,” Llewelyn Hughes, a professor at Australian National University, and David Konisky, a professor at Indiana University, said in a Washington Post essay describing their research. “Even though events like Hurricane Irma are tragic, it may very well be that people tend to forget about them quite quickly and get on with the rest of their lives.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.