Part II: The Flood

Hurricane Michael 2018

Heads in the sand? They will be soon enough, and underwater in other places.

Despite the insistence of many political aficionados of the conservative type, the facts that actual scientists have been reporting for decades are on display as we watch each and every day. The latest reports affirm that the last 4 years have yielded the warmest average temperatures ever recorded in the history on the planet, the most category 4 or above storms to strike North America in a 2-year span, the worst droughts to affect the west since the 1930’s, and the most destruction from wildfires in the same region since it has been considered the United States of America, including the largest wildfire in California state history. All of this during a period of time that has seen conservative politicians double-down (as usual) on ignorance and reject measures acknowledging global climate change accelerated by human activities such as CO2 pollution, alteration of natural protective resources and the continued use of fossil fuels.

All of this in a year that saw the Trump administration withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and loosen regulations administered through the EPA, BLM and Department of Interior that performed functions ranging from emissions regulation to the lease of public lands for private development. Measures have even gone so far as to set the precedent of rescinding the Antiquities Act of 1912 by reducing the size of national monuments. Several months ago, the President himself postulated that the California wildfires ravaging the region were a result of “decades old environmental policy that restricted the practice of clear-cutting forests” and not only led to the unprecedented fire season but “severely restricted the logging industry’s ability to profit”. This, along with the same administration’s aggressive support of the coal industry, sneers at the logic of measures recommended by climate scientists to slow the release of CO2 and ease dependence on fossil fuels.

All of this despite the overwhelming percentage among not only U.S. citizens, but many the world-over, acknowledge that climate change is definitively a man-made crisis and that the next half-century will determine whether we can slow the warming of the planet and avert environmental catastrophe. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the next 10 years was crucial in restricting the average global temperature by rising 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have already witnessed unprecedented weather events in just the last 20 years. However, scientists have continued to sound the alarm since as early as the 1970’s. The report utilizes 6000 resources (papers, studies, reports) to outline the evidence for human-caused climate change and the steps that could potentially mitigate and slow it. What’s at stake? Only the near future.

Last storm season in the Atlantic was a historic event, in the worst way. For the first time, three named hurricanes/tropical storms were retired due to catastrophic damage/loss of life: Harvey, Irma and Maria. This year is seeing the same trend of highly powerful storms rising from the Atlantic to cause record damage upon landfall. Within the space of a month, hurricanes Florence and Michael have ravaged the southeast United States inflicting record damage and catastrophic flooding throughout multiple states, and at this point we are only halfway through hurricane season. The fact that last year’s unprecedented hurricane season could be eclipsed by this year’s is lost on no one except for the regular crowd of climate change deniers which include the aforementioned Presidential administration’s cabinet and corporate entities with huge investments in the fossil fuels industry. That this isn’t exclusively a North American problem must be recognized. This also isn’t a strictly bipartisan issue as polls indicate that the majority of those who vote conservative agree that climate change is real and a dire threat. At the same time that the U.S. is suffering increasingly severe weather, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and every single coastal area throughout the rest of the world lies under increasing risk of severe storms, sea level rise and longer monsoon periods. Add to this the fact that severe weather events make vulnerable the inhabitants of these regions who often have the most to lose because of poverty and class-disparity status. Islands in the South Pacific are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and increasingly severe storms, as are coastal cities. The east coast of the United States is almost completely at or less than a few meters above sea level and makes up more than half of the population of the country. What will we do when we have close to 250 million climate refugees? This fact was recently reinforced when super typhoon Yutu struck and devastated U.S. territories in the South Pacific before heading towards the Philippines, Taiwan and China. Not to be upstaged, a smaller yet powerful hurricane, Walaka, entirely erased a Hawaiian island as it moved across that region of the ocean. Almost simultaneously, hurricane Willa struck the west coast of Mexico, evacuating towns and villages and wiping out services and utilities for thousands. Its not over either with hurricane Oscar warranting the latest alert in the Atlantic. If you’re counting, that’s 5 major hurricanes/typhoons in a single month.

Global apathy concerning this increasing threat has gotten so bad that a court recently ruled in favor of plaintiffs that their government officials were not doing an adequate job of addressing this issue. This type of case is being brought before courts in almost every nation including the U.S., additionally, this issue is recognized as a human rights issue by those within the legal community as well as the ACLU and World Health Organization. Convincing world leaders does not mean that these problems will be solved in a decade. The bottom line concerning greenhouse emissions is that companies will not be dissuaded from profiting from fossil energy forms until the penalties rise high enough to directly affect profit margins or they are shown that green energy is at least as profitable as the ones currently under use. As with all revolutions, these efforts begin and end with some of those thought of as the last to bring about change. Citizens who demand action will eventually elect/empower representatives who demand action and will eventually enact policies that require action. Although this is not the most efficient method of reversing the tides (literally), it is the model that humanity has always followed. Like it or not, the world that we pass to those at the mid-mark of the century will very much be one of our own making or unmaking.

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