Hurricane Harvey was a natural disaster, but the damage it has caused was made worse by climate change, some of which can certainly be attributed to human activity.
IFLScience explains that warmer air holds more moisture than colder air – and eventually, all that moisture will fall out as rain. Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 1-1.5°C warmer than the “average” temperatures a few decades ago. That means 3-5 percent more moisture in the atmosphere.
Following Harvey, there are currently three active “named” storms in the North Atlantic: Irma, Jose and Katia.
As climate change worsens, hurricanes will certainly become more powerful. If we can’t agree on what to do about climate change, can we at least agree that it is real, and that part of it is caused by human activity?
We humans can make a difference if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions to safer levels. We’ve known that for years. In 2007, at the start of the annual climate control summit, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “The time for doubt has passed. National action must be at the center of our response to climate change — with industrialized countries taking the lead.”
Ten years later, Jeff McMahon, writing for Forbes, says, “Most Americans believe climate change is real and that something should be done about it, but they seem to want someone else to do it — usually, the government. In the wake of the 2016 election, what was always true should be abundantly clear: government won’t solve the problem of climate change. That leaves us.”
Just reading McMahon’s suggestions of things we can do is discouraging, however. It amounts to is becoming far less comfortable now so that future generations will have a planet. Eat fewer meat and dairy products, he suggests. Eat organic when you can, and buy locally grown foods. Don’t try to maintain 70-degree indoor climate all year long; keep your home cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer. Line dry your clothes to save money and to make the clothes last longer. Stop driving and traveling so much; move closer to your job and use a bike, or public transportation, or walk. Reduce and reuse before recycling. Stop having kids.
Is this realistic? Will it matter?
There are those who attempt to balance environmentalism with realism. With “realistic environmentalism,” our choice does not need to be eco insanity at either extreme. But again, the first step is admitting that humans can and should make a difference in protecting the environment.