Opinion: Hurricane Michael and the Dangers of Climate Change
By Emma Love, Guest Columnist
Monstrous. Devastating. Historic. This is how newspapers around the world have described how Hurricane Michael ripped through the Florida panhandle last Wednesday, leaving an estimated 28 dead across four states in its wake. The official death toll is still unknown. Maximum sustained winds reached 155 miles an hour while heavy rain and storm surges battered the coast. Search and rescue efforts are still underway as Florida officials dig through the rubble.
Florida Governor Rick Scott’s declaration that Michael was “the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century” is becoming an increasingly common truth in recent years. Hurricane Florence claimed 40 lives in the Carolinas in late August. In the summer of 2017, Hurricane Irma was declared by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to be one of the “strongest and costliest hurricanes on record in the Atlantic basin.” Before Irma came Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Texas. The NHC says Harvey is now tied with 2005’s Katrina for the costliest tropical cyclone on record, causing an estimated $125 billion in damage.
All four of these hurricanes happened within the past year.
Last week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report detailing the rapid advancement of global warming and other worrying developments. Experts warn that the current output of greenhouse emissions will increase the atmosphere’s temperature by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this number may sound insignificant, it will most likely result in more extreme weather and natural disasters worldwide. Climate scientists have repeatedly found that warming waters will continue to produce strong hurricanes.
The Trump administration’s response to this grave issue has been severely lacking. In a 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday, Trump cast doubt on the report by claiming that scientists “have a very big political agenda.” He did not elaborate on what he meant by this statement. Vice President Pence said Tuesday that the causes of climate change “have yet to be seen.”
These words echo Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. Prior to his announcement, he repeatedly disparaged climate change as a hoax during his campaign for the presidency. Trump’s refusal to believe that climate change is undeniably linked to human activities is a disservice to those committed to preserving the Earth, a job that should include all of us. It is extremely important for us to not only believe in science, but also to hold those in power accountable to take the necessary steps to ensure we limit the damage we are causing.