The government can no longer afford to neglect climate change

Graphic Courtesy of Carrie Clowers ’18

Graphic Courtesy of Carrie Clowers ’18

BY LILY REAVIS ’21

Last week, Hurricane Irma hit the southern tip of Florida and continued up the Gulf Coast, prompting the evacuation of 6.3 million people and causing at least 26 deaths, according to CNN. This supposed “500-year storm” occurred just two weeks after Hurricane Harvey touched down in Texas, where city and county officials reported at least71 deaths. 

These storms were once considered 100-year or 500-year flooding events, but they have been occurring with greater frequency. “The U.S. has never been hit, since we started collecting records in 1851, by two Category 4 or stronger hurricanes in the same season,” Meteorologist Jeff Masters told PBS NewsHour.

Recent studies from MIT and Princeton University have found that what is considered a “500-year storm” today may be different in coming centuries. The continued increasingof Earth’s temperature has created conditions in which these storms happen more frequently and more powerfully. 

Sea levels have risen more than half a foot in the past decade as reported by NOAA, a consequence that is attributable to climate change. This means that the storm surge was half a foot higher when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. than it would have been decades ago. Had hurricane levels stayed down, today’s hurricanes likely would have caused much less flooding and destruction. This shift is directly linked to human industry, such as coastal subsidence caused by oil drilling, which contributes to climate change.  

The number of extreme natural disasters worldwide has quadrupled since 1970, which demonstrates the clear connection between the risingtemperature of the Earth and the increasing emission of greenhouse gasses in the United States. 

“The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” NASA and NOAA commented in January.

Yet, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says it is insensitive to discuss climate change in the midst of deadly storms. 

The controversy surrounding man-made climate change should no longer exist. The government cannot afford to continue neglecting the issue. President Trump’s June 2017 announcement to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is indicative of the government’s irrational refusal to work toward a more ecologically-safe environment.

In a March 2017 press meeting,  Pruitt said that he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. This statement contradicts the public stance of the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency’s webpage on the causes of climate change states, “Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.”

The fact that the Trump administration and the EPA continuously deny over a century’s worth of applied environmental research should immediately disqualify them as administrators of environmental protection. The Senate needs to stand up to Pruitt and his dangerous views.

There have been more ecological disasters recorded in the past 10 years than have ever been recorded in the span of a decade. Conservative governmental agencies can no longer afford to deny the fact that their actions have direct effects on ecological wellness. Pruitt’s argument that it’s “insensitive” to discuss the causes of disasters in their midst is ridiculous and will never influence change. It’s important to discuss what is happening in our world and continuously strive to better it. 

The government’s refusal to take action in the wake of Hurricane Irma shows that they are unable to effectively and responsibly lead the United State’s protocol on climate change. Now is not the time to maintain age-old beliefs about human effects. Now is the time to act, and we need a government that is able and willing to dutifully represent the issues affecting the U.S., instead of denying them. 

Mount Holyoke News

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