Recent natural disasters should bring our attention to climate change

By Shivani Gosai | Opinions Editor

09/21/17

Climate change is a notoriously tricky subject to discuss, this being as it is a very politically charged conversation. Whether you believe in climate change or not, it’s time to start paying attention to the way we treat our home.

Many people have been attributing the recent devastation from hurricanes Harvey and Irma to climate change, but is this accurate? And is there something we could have done to prevent this?

It is easy to place the blame on someone or something else instead of focusing on the tragedy at hand. But it’s okay to take a step back and evaluate what preventative measures could have been taken. We shouldn’t have to choose between working to prevent the next tragedy and helping the current victims. It’s important to talk about climate change, not for the next storm but for the generations to come.

According to a NASA release in January, the planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

How does this affect natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey? This escalation in temperature has made the oceans warmer — which causes more water to evaporate, ultimately increasing the amount of water in Harvey. There was no way to completely prevent Hurricane Harvey, but the flooding would not have been as severe without global warming.

While we can’t be accusing climate change as the sole reason for all our problems, we can assess its impact on the increase of things like hurricanes. We should all be working to reduce the effects of climate change. Recycling and driving more fuel-efficient cars are great examples of change that will help, but unfortunately this problem can’t solely be solved by starting to drive an electric car. It will also take efforts from cities to push for energy efficient improvements and sustainable city planning, and countries to coordinate international policies for cleaner forms of energy.

It is important to recognize the steps our leaders are taking to protect our planet. Theresa May issued a warning to Donald Trump yesterday, arguing that his plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate change treaty is on par with North Korea’s nuclear missile tests as it is a threat to global prosperity and security. The Paris Agreement pushes for each country to plan and regularly report its own contribution to mitigate global warming.

The planet will take a while to respond to these changes because carbon dioxide can linger in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, but that is why it is so important for us to start now. If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming can be slowed down for the sake our future generations.

To be clear, climate change is not “fake news.” There is no debate among scientists, according to NASA, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change.

We should all be doing our part to prevent increased destruction during the next natural disaster.For more information, the United States Environmental Protection Agency website is a great resource to help you understand green living and reduce your environmental footprint.

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