Warmer summers might not sound so bad to many; however, the tangible effects of climate change will likely manifest as disastrous flooding and tropical storms rather than warmer temperatures. While it might be old news, climate change is quickly producing catastrophic alterations to our environment. This past week, the Midwest got a view of the exacerbated disasters to come.
Recent flooding in the Midwest caused three deaths and over 4,400 families to evacuate their homes. States including Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota have all declared a state of emergency. While support from the National Guard and private groups like the American Red Cross has helped the situation, many remain displaced and in despair due to the water damage, which estimates say will cost close to $1 billion.
The effects of this disaster and others related to climate change will continue to destroy the lives of people across the world, including Nebraskans. Reducing emissions and finding solutions to climate change should be a top priority.
Without making changes to infrastructure that is dependent on carbon emissions, the future will be full of despair for everyone in the world, including Nebraska and the Midwest.
The recent flooding in the Midwest was directly caused by climate change. The main agent in the record breaking water levels was the extreme increase in annual precipitation, which, in the Midwest, has been rising since the early 1900s. While annual precipitation has increased, most of the extra precipitation has come in the form of a few yearly extreme snow and rainfalls.
The combination of packed snow and ice with an extreme rainfall allowed rain to compile into rivers and streams, which eventually broke levees. 2018 projections show that the Midwest, along with the Great Lakes region and the Northeast United States, will see the largest increase in annual precipitation going forward. This means more flooding and destruction of not only the Midwest’s important agriculture industry, but the lives of everyone there. While not many metropolitan areas were hit with water this time, they will in the future if changes aren’t made to shift away from sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change in the past has seemed like a foreign issue, as many Americans didn’t feel personally affected. Today, however, climate change is a domestic issue. It played a hand not only in the recent flooding, but in last year’s record-breaking wildfires and tropical storms. Statistics show California has seen increasingly high temperatures along with a decrease in precipitation over the last 20 years. This makes the already wildfire-prone state even more susceptible to large fires and widespread drought. As a result, at least 15 of California’s 20 largest wildfires have taken place within the past 20 years.
In addition, climate change has intensified tropical storms like hurricanes Harvey, Michael and Maria. These storms killed thousands of Americans and caused massive destruction, and scientists found their rapid intensification was caused by a changing climate. Now that we know the way in which climate change affects America, it’s time to take action to prevent further turmoil.
The only way to prevent future disasters like flooding, drought and intense tropical storms is by instilling radical changes now. While legislation is being drafted to reduce carbon emissions, widespread measures like forcing businesses to cut their emissions and enacting social changes are legal actions that must be taken to decelerate climate change. Effectively cutting emissions means completely changing our lifestyles and forcing businesses to produce products using new methods that are less harmful to the environment.
Companies like Kohl’s and Whole Foods have paved the way by switching large amounts of their power sources to solar and wind energy. While some companies will make the switch willingly, others won’t until legislation forces them to do so. Changes can also be made by individual actions like choosing to bike instead of drive or reducing electricity use. Either way, it will take collective efforts to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Preventing the worsening of climate change won’t be easy, especially considering that much of the damage already done to the environment is irreversible. The alternative to radical change, however, is simply trying to minimize the suffering of those hit by the increasing natural disasters to come. As it stands now, radical changes to our economy and personal lives are the best preventative measures we can take in order to avoid even greater despair and destruction.
In the past, Americans turned a blind eye to climate change and its effects. But as Nebraskans lose their homes and businesses, we don’t have the luxury of avoiding the issue. Without change, the disasters seen recently will not only repeat themselves, but will become even more destructive. Climate change is not a far-off issue; it’s at our doorstep.