Politicization of Hurricanes
With an early start date, a record number of storms forming and ending up in unusual locations, this year’s hurricane season was unexpected and very active. Through Sunday, Oct. 28, the Atlantic Ocean produced 15 named storms, with eight strengthening into hurricanes, which is above the 1981-2010 average of 12 named storms and six hurricanes per year. One storm developed on Friday, May 25, right before the official start of hurricane season in June. It began as subtropical depression one before strengthening into subtropical storm Alberto the next day, May 26, over the southeast Gulf of Mexico. There was also a record number of subtropical storms that developed over the course of the season.
This year’s strange hurricane season comes after last year’s extremely active season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2017’s season produced 17 storms, with 10 becoming hurricanes. Six of those 10 storms developed into major hurricanes. Last year’s season was the first in 12 years to have two major hurricanes hit the continental U.S.
What is the cause of these more active than normal hurricane seasons and the odd occurrences? Many signs point to climate change. According to an Oct. 2018 article from The Guardian, more intense storms can be linked to human-induced climate change. Hurricanes draw power from about 2000 meters below the ocean’s surface, and temperatures at this depth have been steadily rising since the 1970s. Last year saw the highest temperature at this depth on record. New data has suggested that hurricanes in the future will likely be stronger, slower and wetter – producing stronger winds and more rain.
What should be a purely scientific issue has made its way into the political realm.
Climate change has been a significant political issue for the past few years but has become more poignant since President Donald Trump took office. One of Trump’s first actions was to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. During his campaign, he vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and now as president, he is keeping his word. He has steadily been rolling back Obama-era efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including the Clean Power Plan. He has tweeted about how climate change is a “hoax” created by the Chinese meant to cripple the U.S. economy.
While the politicization of human-induced climate change is nothing new, it has taken on a life of its own during the Trump Administration. While both sides fight to convince citizens that their stance is right, the future of the environment and the inhabitability of our planet is at stake.
Climate change should never have become political. The scientific research behind climate change and human effects on it is thorough. Meteorologists and climatologists around the world have found conclusive evidence that oceanic and atmospheric temperatures have been rising significantly since the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. They have also published predictions for what could happen if temperatures keep rising at their current rates. The earth has gone through many periods of climate change, with temperatures rising and falling globally. Despite these changes, the planet is still here and still inhabitable to countless species of plants and animals. People use this argument to defend being lax about climate change or to deny human influence. The planet has gone through cycles of change throughout history and is still OK. However, what many fail to acknowledge is the fact that these changes have not happened this fast at any other point in recorded history. What is happening to the climate now is an experiment, and humans are the primary subjects.
Besides that, the real issue isn’t whether the planet will be OK: The real issue is whether the earth will remain inhabitable for humans and other species. More active hurricane seasons with bigger, stronger storms have been predicted for the near future. Coastal cities and low-lying areas are at risk of being submerged by floodwaters should a large storm hit. Storms like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and most recently Hurricane Michael earlier this year, have demonstrated the destruction, loss of life and economic hardship these storms can and will bring. It is time to remove climate change from politics.