Despite recent traumatic floods which have killed over a thousand people worldwide in places ranging from South Asia to the southern United States, the 14th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, said in response to linking climate change to the monstrous superstorm Hurricane Irma: “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced.”
Irma is the most extreme cyclone in the known history of the Atlantic Ocean. It has broken a couple of terrifying records: longest sustaining winds of 185 mph (breaking Typhoon Haiyan’s record by an incredible 13 hours), and the fastest wind speed ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean (excluding the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea).
The connection between the recent hydrometeorology disasters and climate change is quite clear. As the air and ocean surface becomes warmer, moisture is added into the atmosphere and wind speeds intensify. In fact, with each degree Celsius of warming, wind speeds intensify by eight meters per second and the amount of moisture in the air increases by seven percent. And as sea levels rise, the likelihood of coastal flooding rises. The coastal waters of Bangladesh have risen at one of the fastest rates in the world. After a devastating flood in late August, two-thirds of the country was underwater.
Pruitt’s comments fall in line with many actions taken by the Trump Administration. Even though a recent government report validates the reality of climate change, the White House has seemed to look the other way. Instead, the administration has sought a business-as-usual path, enthusiastically endorsing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The administration has also removed an Obama-era rule which mandates government projects to consider the impacts of climate change as well as reduced regulations on methane emissions. Cuts from a budget proposal earlier this year indicated that the administration is looking to reduce EPA funding by nearly a third, eliminate Department of Energy efficiency programs, and end expenditures to United Nations climate programs.
However, unlike the White House, the American people feel like serious climate action needs to be taken. A poll in June found that more than seven out of ten Americans agree “that given the amount of greenhouse gases that it produces, the United States should take aggressive action to slow global warming.” Additionally, a poll in April revealed that over sixty percent of Americans disagreed with the administration’s removal of climate change regulations.
The 2015 Paris Climate accord signified a new stage in the global fight against climate change. Agreed upon by 195 countries and ratified by 148, the commitment positioned the United States to be a world leader in emissions reductions. Unfortunately, President Trump has spent the past few months attacking the accord, as he has spent the last few years promulgating the myth that climate change is a hoax.
Of course, assisting those facing unbelievable tragedy due to natural disasters is important. But if the issue of climate change is not dealt with today, only more struggle, destruction, and heartbreak will follow tomorrow.