Climate Crisis—Harder, faster, stronger . . . and more often
While the recent derecho that devastated much of our state (along with neighboring Illinois) has not been linked to the climate change crisis, the evidence both here at home and around the globe increases each year, and 2020 has certainly been no exception.
The frequency and intensity of natural disasters have risen to alarming levels, and the aftermath of these events also take a significant toll on the sustainability and longevity of the planet.
The wildfires that ravaged much of Austrailia from July of 2019 through the beginning of 2020—and have been linked to climate change—were a sadly familiar sight for those both in California and other southwestern states, as well as citizens of central Canada who have had to deal with more frequent and destructive blazes both this year and last. The unsettling orange and red coloring emblazoned in the skies of the west coast this week—as a result of multiple severe wildfires—are a testament to the urgent need for reform.
A Graphic reader, Linda Kane, who lives near Denver, Colo., described what they experienced of the wildfires, even from 50 miles away.
“You could see ash falling, and smell the smoke. The sunrise was red. Inside, our whole house had this creepy, eerie, dark yellow, orange-ish glow. It felt like 8 p.m., rather than noon . . . Meanwhile, our pool floaties [outside] went from being covered in ash, to being covered in snow, in a matter of hours.”
Wildfires not only devastate the wildlife and destroy ecosystems of the areas in which they burn, but also contribute significantly to the decline of air quality miles and miles beyond the area of the blaze’s origin, as they release large and damaging amounts of CO2 carbon emissions, and ozone precursors into the atmosphere which can travel miles beyond the original area of the fire—having the potential to impact even on a global scale.
Air quality also impacts water and soil quality; affecting plants and crops, as well as vital ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and water sources. The air we breathe and the water we drink are the two most vital resources we require in order to preserve continuity (and quality) of life for all living beings. They are the foundation of life itself, and their preservation and protection should be paramount in the fight to slow climate change.
Our oceans are also a major concern. Rising sea levels and loss of ocean life and ecosystems (such as reefs) are an alarming result of our changing climate.
Tropical storms, tsunamis, and typhoons have also become more hazardous throughout Asia, and one—referred to as Super Typhoon Haishen—struck southern Japan, Sunday afternoon, and will continue onto South Korea, where it is expected to cause “historical landfall.” This will be the first time in at least 75 years that the country has been hit by three typhoons within a single year, according to Yale Climate Connections.
While Japan was not hit as strongly as was predicted, injuries were abundant and damage was significant. There is a growing concern each year for Japan’s coastal cities, Tokyo being chief among them, when it comes to flooding as a result of these storms. With the inevitably of increasing and intense storms, the preparedness for flooding in areas—especially ones with large populations/population density—like Tokyo has come into question. Will what is in place now be enough? Evacuating roughly 37.4 million people is no small feat. Unfortunately, it is difficult to innovate ahead of nature, and moving quickly is key when it comes to being prepared for the unpredictable.
The southeastern United States has also experienced an early hurricane season, with 2020 marking the first season in recorded history that three or more storms formed in the area before (or at the beginning of) June, and the activity of storms in that region has not let up thus far with a tropical storm named Omar forming off the coast of North Carolina on the first of this month.
With sea levels rising more rapidly in the past decade, the threats posed from storms such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and typhoons also increase dramatically, as storms can affect a larger area due to decrease in coastline and heightened intensity of the storms themselves. This also means that areas that are not usually affected, and therefore may not have the same safeguards in place to prevent/minimize damage to infrastructure and habitat—resulting in more destruction and potential loss of life. Landslides are a common occurrence as a result of severe flooding caused by storms (as well as a result of earthquakes, which have also become more frequent and intense in certain areas throughout the globe)—not only in areas such as East and Southeast Asia, but in northern regions such as Norway, Denmark, Iceland, etc., as well.
While humans all across the globe have found ways to try to adapt to the natural disasters that occur in their respective homes, the ability to outsmart nature completely, will never be within our grasp; and over time, it will become much harder to keep up innovation in between natural disasters. Which is why the most important thing we can do to combat the growing and varied threats posed by climate change, is to not ignore that climate change IS a problem.
Climate change and its effects can be seen and felt everywhere. Climate change is indisputable, and the evidence of it is occuring more often, and with more force, than ever before, all around the globe.
Knowledge of and protection for our natural resources and habitats is absolutely vital, and the research into the prevention/minimization of devastation and death as a result of predictable natural disasters is also incredibly necessary when it comes to preserving our planet and those of us that call it home.
Indifference and ignorance are not the solution. Protection and prevention are key.
Our planet may not need us, but we need our planet.
And science is the solution to sustainability and survival.