In early September of this year, Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas and killed dozens of people and leaving even more injured. It was the strongest to ever hit the Carribean country, classified at level 5. The storm was one in a trend of increasingly dangerous tropical storms to happen recently and defied expectations regarding its strength and trajectory.
Experts were questioned on Dorian’s relation to climate change. What they were able to figure out is that high pressure winds from the Northern Atlantic ocean and the United States trapped Dorian over the Bahamas, a phenomenon often referred to as “stalling.” Stalling is becoming increasingly common in modern hurricanes. On top of that, Dorian’s strength was correlated to its temperature which was 1 degree Celsius warmer than usual.
Because oceans have absorbed over 90 percent of global heat within the past half century, experts believe this to be a product of climate change. Atmospheric scientist Jennifer Francis told Science Alert that this single degree “[translated] to a whole bunch of energy.”
The two strongest hurricanes to hit the United States this year were Dorian and Barry. The latter was classified at category 4 and climate change correlations were also drawn to its severity. Climate change action advocates are currently struggling against legislation and education propelled by the GOP that discounts the human role in this phenomenon. These advocates argue that if people as a whole do not shift direction, tropical storms will become more deadly and continue to wreak havoc.
The Causes of Climate Change
While the Earth’s climate has been changing for many years, human innovation and industry have caused these changes to happen at a rapid pace. In short, the Earth is hotter than ever before, warming 1.2 to 1.4 degrees (Fahrenheit) within the last century. Innovative technology spurred by the Industrial Revolution has typically relied on natural fuel resources that actively release excessive greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases have caused the Earth to trap heat from the sun within the atmosphere, therefore warming the globe.
According to the Carbon Majors Report of 2017, just 100 fossil fuel companies are to blame for over 70% of these greenhouse gas emissions. The Report covered the years of 1988-2015, in which it was shown that China’s coal industry contributed the largest amount of emissions at 14.32%. Arameco was the closest behind it, taking responsibility for 4.5% of said emissions. ExxonMobil Corp, Chevron, and the China National Petroleum Corp were all within the top 15 contributors of greenhouse gases to Earth’s atmosphere.
Additionally, there are some natural disasters contributing to global warming even further. Right now, large portions of the Amazon rainforest are on fire. The Amazon is crucial to the Earth’s oxygen supply and has sometimes been called “the lungs of the world.” The causes for its burning have been identified largely as industrial deforestation and farming, and its destruction has massive consequences for the planet’s overall temperature and air supply.
The Cost of Convenience
When water is warmed, it swells. In the ocean’s case, this, along with melting icebergs, is a major contributor to the rising sea levels. The increased amount of liquid water in the ocean may then lead to flooding and increased precipitation in the atmosphere. Finally, that extra precipitation is causal to hurricanes.
When individuals or organizations use excessive amounts of energy and fossil fuels, they contribute to this very problem. Wasting water, driving when you don’t need to, and using nonrenewable materials are common examples of harmful conveniences that contribute to water pollution and the greenhouse effect.
The major industries people support financially are therefore just as important as the products they choose to use. For instance, by purchasing local produce rather than fast food, individuals can offset the impact of that industry’s effects on ocean waste, unethical treatment of animals, and the use of fossil fuel. If people vote with their dollars and boycott these industries at large, they can reduce their carbon footprint.
The Increased Rage of Tropical Storms
In the past, storms of Dorian’s magnitude only happened once every 500 years. While history is full of natural disasters devastating the human race, this particular moment in history is seeing major incidents occur at an alarming rate. While there are many factors that contribute to increasing sea temperatures, Globalchange.gov explained that the specific causes of the warming matter:
The atmosphere responds differently when local sea surface temperatures increase due to a local decrease of particulate pollution that allows more sunlight through to warm the ocean, versus when sea surface temperatures increase more uniformly around the world due to increased amounts of human-caused heat-trapping gases.
So heating in response to human impacts on Earth’s oceans, combined with extreme amounts of precipitation in the atmosphere, is making tropical storms stronger. And this increase of power combined with their increase of frequency makes them unpredictably dangerous, especially considering that we cannot always predict which storms will stall and which will not.
For Atlantic storms, Globalchange.gov says there are other changes to occur in the near future. For instance, there is an expected drop in the number of tropical cyclones to happen annually. Yet, on the other hand, there is projected to be an increase in the number of category 4 and 5 storms. As the rage of these storms increase, the human ability to predict and protect against their power decreases.
When the Powers That Be Act
World authorities are beginning to take notice of climate change problems. Right now, many public officials are pushing for Federal action to combat the catastrophes facing Earth. As reported in an article by the University of Nevada, these officials are calling on powers-that-be to reverse the course of what we have started, and they need all the help they can get.
The United States Federal government has taken some action against climate change, primarily by targeting energy companies. Laws have been passed that cause electricity and energy providers to invest a certain amount into renewable energy each year, and hefty fines can abound if they do not abide by these policies. However, to get these companies to do anything more can be like pulling teeth for government officials, due to sustainable startup expenditures costing millions of dollars for energy companies.
Dealing With Climate Change on a Personal Level
Despite these important steps, climate change initiatives still fail to garner the necessary amount of government support. Currently, the Republican party in the United States discounts climate change’s validity, reducing the strength of environmental initiatives put in place by democrats. This calls for individuals to take political action, whether it be through protests, calling their senators, and the like. But the future outcome of climate change will certainly depend on whether or not these GOP officials recognize their responsibility within this discussion.
Right now, the fight against climate change rages on. But while individuals do their part in preventing it, they also have to protect themselves against the consequences of it. This is particularly true if they live in areas where hurricanes and natural disasters often happen, such as Texas or Florida. Personal preparation may include storing an emergency kit nearby, having a recovery plan after damage, and using technology to stay updated on the progress of these natural disasters. Additionally, ensuring a meeting place for family members is smart in the case of separation due to these catastrophes.
However, financial ruin is also a possibility in the aftermath of climate-change related disasters. For a personal home, protecting oneself may include something like flood insurance and other additive policies. Notably, general home insurance does not account for natural disaster damage. Small businesses may find that commercial flood insurance is especially helpful in relevant locations as well.
However, for those of us who live in places where we do not regularly need to prepare for climate-change related occurrences, it may be worthwhile to think about how we can help the parts of the world that do. While federal initiatives are still being formed and enforced, it is our job to try and reduce our own carbon footprints. Using renewable energy around one’s house is a primary way this can be done. Some of these energy means may include:● Solar-powered● Hydro-powered● Wind-powered● Biomass energy
Additionally, when natural disasters do hit, volunteer work is generally an option for those who would like to help. Organizations like All Hands and Hearts are currently rounding up volunteers who can help in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Hurricane Dorian is a human-propelled disaster that laid waste to the bahamas. Climate change has been largely increased by our carelessness and excessive use of fossil fuels. Our focus on convenience has affected global warming so dramatically that tropical storms have grown in number and intensity, leaving a trail of devastation behind them. While federal powers around the world and in the United States are starting to take action against this by forcing energy companies to invest in renewable power, it seems that the political divide is making this less effective than needed. Thus, humans must not only prepare for natural disasters, but seek means to reduce their carbon footprint as well.
Author: Sam Bowman