On Aug. 17, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. Over the next five weeks, four more hurricanes battered the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast, resulting in arguably one of the most destructive hurricane seasons for the United States in 12 years. Three category 4 or 5 hurricanes have made landfall in U.S. territory in the same season, something we haven’t seen in modern history. This hurricane season has caused death and destruction, and the Caribbean islands may never recover. So why do people keep denying the root of the problem?
It is indisputable that climate change has an effect on our weather. In every sunny day and raindrop, its fingerprint remains visible on every storm. According to NASA, hurricanes generate their energy from warm, tropical air, only forming over warm ocean waters near the equator. Tropical cyclones (an umbrella term for hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones) are the atmosphere’s attempt to move heat from these warm equatorial regions toward colder, polar regions. Ocean warming has doubled in recent decades according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and sea surface temperature has been on a steady increase since the 1970s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. J. Marshall Shepherd, head of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia, and his team have dedicated their lives to issuing warnings and research about the dangers of climate change, a message the public continues to ignore.
Currently, heat waves are rolling through Southern Europe. In Pakistan, temperatures reached almost 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Do you miss fall weather in September? Well, these early-fall heat waves are likely to become more and more common (according to an article published in the Environmental Research Letters) in a matter of decades. Coastal flooding is getting worse and worse, displacing millions of people. Scientists have been urging us to change our lifestyle for decades, but we have chosen to ignore them. Now we’re paying the consequences. Progress on climate change has basically halted in Washington, and the administration has announced its intent to withdraw from the global Paris climate accord. Multiple high-ranking officials within the Trump administration are climate change deniers, and they believe the scientific basis for climate change is too unreliable to call for action. That may have been a somewhat plausible answer 20 years ago, but to deny the facts with evidence right in front of your face is a dangerous path to go down. It’s indicative of the times we live in, ones where people put blind trust into those who have no idea what they’re talking about.
The biggest uncertainty in climate science is not anything about the numbers themselves, but how much longer are people going to refuse to change their ways? Despite the arguments of climate change deniers, we can say this for sure: we are running enormous risks. The stability of human civilization rests in the balance of the next 20 years. Whether or not we do something will decide the fate of our world. That may sound like an exaggeration, but look at the numbers. It’s exhausting to keep demanding change, but it must be done, or else we end up like those in Texas who ignored the flood warnings. Is our failure to act really what we want to leave behind?