The aftermath of Hurricane Irene on the East Coast has been a disaster. So far there have been at least 43 deaths. At its peak, over 6.5 million people went without power. And still over 580,000 residences are without power from North Carolina to Maine. Whole cities remain flooded, roads completely wrecked, bridges down, water supplies flooded and contaminated – an untold hundreds of billions of dollars in damages. Tens of thousands of working families are losing their incomes as businesses close due to flooding and hurricane damage. Thousands of families have seen their homes destroyed forever.
We’re told by the media and the politicians that this is just another unpredictable, natural disaster; or that the weather is just a force of nature that acts on its own – and we have no impact on it. The best we can do as a society, they tell us, is to organize a decent rescue and relief effort once in a while. The rest of the time, for those of us who live in hurricane territory, we’ve got to just hang on for dear life.
This kind of story might work for media interviews and press conferences. But for scientists, it’s just a bunch on nonsense. Whether they work for NASA or the Chinese government or the US Department of Defense or the United Nations Childrens Fund or a local public school – among scientists, there is a consensus: climate change is real, is caused by human activity, and is making severe weather even worse. Not only does climate change increase the number of severe weather events, but it increases how destructive they are as well.
As temperatures rise from the release of greater amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – weather patterns change. Drier climates get drier, making massive fires more likely. Hurricanes and tornadoes are likely to increase in strength because there is more warm, moist air. From flooding and fires and hurricanes to crop failures and droughts and rising sea levels – these are the effects of global warming and climate change.
Scientists have pointed out the dangers of climate change for years. Severe weather is just the tip of the iceberg. According to top climatologists, including James Hansen, former head of NASAs Goddard Institute for Space Studies, as many as half of the world’s species of animal and plant life are threatened with extinction if warming levels continue as they are. And the very survival of the human species on this planet is being threatened by the continuous degradation of the earth’s environment.
The response, however, from governments, and the heads of banks and corporations has been nothing but lip service at best. They sit at the head of an economic system that has no concern for the environment. This is an economic system that only has room for one priority – dollar signs.
Energy companies don’t seek out new lines of business when they get word of the environmental damage caused by generating energy from fossil fuels – they continue with business as usual. When energy supplies begin to dwindle – they search for mountain tops to blow up, deep sea oil sources to drill in, wildlife refuges to destroy. They treat the planet like an all-you-can-eat buffet; their motto is to grow or die. And as long as there is money to be made in the short run – the ruling elite have no concern for what’s happening in the long run.
There will be many more Hurricane Irenes and even worse severe weather disasters. We will be told over and over again how we are helpless to the powers of nature. And we will be told that everything that can be done is being done. This, we can no longer accept.
We can no longer leave our future and the fate of the planet in the hands of those who have created this environmental crisis. They will continue to pollute and ravage the earth as long as it is profitable for them, and even if it means destroying the precious possibility of life on the planet. There is no future under this kind of a system. It’s up to us to change it.