I remember a Social Studies class in school where we talked about saving water, by turning the tap off when brushing our teeth and having shorter showers. At the time climate change was a hot topic, but it was much less pronounced than in the last few years. It wasn’t so much about how industrialization was still the main cause of water waste, excessive garbage and pollution. It was about how someday in the seemingly distant future, we would have to clean up our environment so as to avoid climate change. Even with the hole on the O-Zone layer above New Zealand and Australia, it was an issue to be thought about later.
Now it is apparent that climate change is not waiting for our generation to age and take control of the situation. It is apparent in the fact that wildfire season is lasting longer across the globe and the approximate one-eight of an inch increase, every year, of rising sea levels. It is apparent in the wildfires that took hold of the Northern Hemisphere this summer; the earthquakes that have occurred everywhere from New Zealand, to Mexico, to Greece and more; and of course hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
As hurricane Harvey hit the southern United States the Internet became littered with pictures of houses with half their structure missing and streets with floodwater that looked more like rivers. The storm brought “up to 50 inches of rain in some areas” of Houston. It has been compared, across the media, to the destruction brought by Katrina in 2005 and is the biggest storm to have hit America in a decade. Irma covered a span about the size of Texas and is the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record. The destruction has caused an estimated 190 billion dollars in damages and has disrupted lives across the Caribbean and southern United States.
Now North Carolina is preparing for hurricane Maria, which is coming closer to the east coast. Maria is currently a category 1 storm and has winds of 80 mph. Compared to Harvey – which landed in Rockport, Texas as a category 4 storm with winds of 185 mph – it seems like a much smaller concern. However at this point the resources will clearly be focused towards Harvey and anything that adds to the disrepair is going to be an issue for US authorities.
There is no question about it; these storms have, and are going to have, a huge impact on the effected communities. The question on people’s minds now is, how does this relate to climate change? Is there any direct correlation between the intensity and frequency of these storms, and our planet warming up at a rapid rate? According to Christopher Joyce the answer is, to a degree, yes. Though it is not unheard of for many hurricanes to occur they usually go unnoticed, as they don’t always hit land. The warming up of our oceans creates vapor, which in turn creates circulating winds with the result being hurricanes. It is not just the heat of our oceans that is a concern, the heat created by greenhouse gas emissions also traps heat in our atmosphere and enhances these big storms. This being said, experts are hesitant to call this our future. Many of these occurrences comes down to sheer random luck, or the lack there of in the case of the Southern United States.
The question that remains is whether people will be more likely to take climate change seriously after these tropical storms. Though it is hard to imagine a person living through a storm such as hurricane Harvey and not believing in the science of climate change, it is more than possible. In terms of policy and science the recently released list of Environmental Protection Agency candidates seems to indicate that we are far from consensus on the topic. According to Motherboard “At least a dozen of these ‘experts’ in their fields are vocal climate change deniers.” With experts claiming that climate change is a false claim for economic benefit, it has to be assumed that there will still be a large population that also denies the impact of climate change. It has to be hoped that this population will have a small enough impact that we may have a chance to repair some of the damage we have had thus far.
By Annalisse Crosswell
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.