As the waters recede from Houston, we have some time to step back and take a look at the damage done.
The BBC reports that over 40 people have died in the worst Texas hurricane in recent memory. Furthermore, the state estimates that well over $100 billion will be needed for full reparations. Nearly 100,000 homes will have to be repaired or rebuilt, and tens of thousands of evacuees are migrating back, hoping, but not expecting, to find anything left.
Even to those fortunate enough to have been hundreds of miles inland during the disaster, repercussions had been felt in the form of a sudden shortage of gasoline. Suffice it to say that this natural disaster had exceptionally far-reaching consequences, yet the intensity of Hurricane Harvey may become the new norm as ocean temperatures increase.
Global warming, climate change, sea-level rise — many names have been used to describe the phenomenon of rising temperatures caused by man-made carbon emissions. Yet, most notably among the consequences of the heat-trapping effects of carbon-based gases is the increase in ocean temperatures, which can have dramatic effects on the intensity of ocean-borne storms. The sea-level rise due to the melting of polar ice caps is increasing the overall ocean level, putting strain on seaside ocean centers even in normal conditions. When sea-level rise is combined with a massive downpour of rain as well as a storm surge, the resulting flood can be disastrous. Furthermore, as NASA Space Place explains, elevated temperatures increase the rate of oceanwide evaporation, intensifying the following torrential downpour as well as wind strength during say, a hurricane. It is a simple fact that as ocean temperatures continue to increase, hurricanes will become more devastating.
While it’s wonderful that the government, both federal and local, are working together on relief efforts, little is being done in preparation for future disasters. We need a policy that will both mitigate the impacts of climate change while at the same be politically viable by simultaneously growing the economy.
Luckily for us, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan grassroots organization, is advancing such a policy already through the political arena. CCL is working to influence our government to pass a Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFnD), which places a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels at the source and then returns that money back to American households on an equal basis. CCL now has a chapter on the UTD campus and is training students on how to effectively lobby their legislators and advocate for climate change legislation. Rooted in civil discourse and respect, CCL focuses on bringing conservatives and liberals together as Americans and inhabitants of the same world.
National change necessitates a political impetus. The problem is, much of Congress opposes implementing any significant solution to climate change, and many politicians do not believe that climate change is real. Having said that, 26 Republicans and 26 Democrats have come together in the House Climate Solutions Caucus to seek viable policy options to address climate change. It is essential that we demonstrate how profound climate change is by becoming informed voters, active citizens and ruthless yet respectful advocates of climate change solutions.