Hurricane Irma may have been downgraded to a Category 4 storm, but its unprecedented power is still roaring as it levels islands in the Caribbean and continues to churn towards Florida.
Responsible for 20 deaths so far, the hurricane has made Barbuda “inhabitable,” caused outages for 900,000 in Puerto Rico and left rubble and destruction in its path. Officials in Florida are working around the clock to help evacuate residents, as the storm is expected to make landfall late Saturday.
While it might be easy to chalk this up to usual weather patterns — September is peak for Atlantic hurricane season — it’s hard to ignore the clear signs of climate change as a culprit for super storms like Harvey and Irma.
The domino affect is numbing; humans are causing the Earth to heat up and warmer ocean waters act as energy for hurricanes. More heat, more powerful hurricanes. Higher sea levels can also be attributed to humans and global warming. When the sea levels rise, flooding occurs. And flooding can be made worse by increased rainfall, which we witnessed with Harvey. Houston saw about 50 inches of rainfall through the duration of the storm and residual weather. That also is affected by global warming, as the Washington Post notes:
“We also know that warmer air holds more moisture, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has increased because of human-induced global warming. We’ve measured this increase, and it has been unequivocally attributed to human-caused warming. That extra moisture causes heavier rainfall, which has also been observed and attributed to our influence on climate. We know that rainfall rates in hurricanes are expected to increase in a warmer world, and now we’re living that reality.”
The time to address climate change has to be now if we want a fighting chance at saving this world and the people who inhabit it. But with a climate-denier as president (and an administration who willfully ignores these devastating changes), the resistance will be tough.
But tackling climate change is a matter of life and death. It’s time for action now.