This year’s challenging hurricane season has made one thing clear: The discussion around hurricanes needs to shift focus from reacting to unexpected tragedies to educating the public on its connection to climate change. This is the only way the public can hope to mitigate such hostile weather in the long-term.
With hurricane season only halfway complete, it has already been a record-breaking year. Hurricane Harvey had record rainfall with 50 inches of water in some areas of Houston. Additionally, economic losses due to Hurricane Irma have already accumulated to approximately $10 billion, according to Public Radio International.
Additionally, there are more storms forming in the Atlantic. Hurricane Maria is the current focus of meteorologists, according to The Weather Channel. She is currently expected to develop into a Category 4 by Tuesday and continue on a track toward the U.S. through Friday, according to Bay News 9. It is too soon to make further predictions.
Dennis Feltgen from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also explained this year’s temperatures and storms have been “unprecedented.”
While hurricanes are nothing new to this planet, the impact and frequency of devastating storms is increasing, according to the NOAA.
The debate on whether this increase is at least partially due to climate change is not controversial: It’s simple physics. With the Earth’s average oceanic and atmospheric temperatures climbing, harsher and larger storms occurring at an increasing rate because of energy from warmer waters. These trends have been identified in multiple studies registered with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This means Harvey and Irma’s devastation could be but a glance at what is to come if humans fail to curb their carbon emissions and continue to exacerbate global warming.
In June, Chris Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, explained in a statement at The White House, “It is insensitive to discuss climate change in the midst of deadly storms.”
If we are not going to talk about it now and implement an environmental sustainability plan, then when?
The discussion on climate change needs to be broadened so people can better understand how warming temperatures could create more storms if we do not transition to more sustainable lifestyles.
Pruitt also explained that finding a cause and effect while people are struggling is wrong.
While it is inarguable that funding should go to relieving those who were tragically effected, it is also our policy makers’ responsibility to educate the public on climate change mitigation to protect us from these disasters long-term.
President Donald Trump has been known to call climate change a hoax in tweets and while campaigning. But how could anyone deny that the climate here on Earth is changing when Scientific American showed that 2017 could be one of the hottest years on record?
While it is the Earth’s natural process to move in temperature cycles, mankind’s environmental footprint has dramatically sped up that process, as reported by NASA.
It is time for governmental policy and public discourse to reflect this dire consensus because the facts show Irma could be small in comparison to what is to come. There is simply no more time to skirt this discussion because if we do not act soon, there could be a point of no return.
Samantha Moffett is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.