Weather-related tragedies are everywhere we look. On Sunday, Hurricane Ida left a path of destruction in Louisiana and is now tracking northeast, with flood warnings issued as far north as Cape Cod. A few days earlier, parts of Tennessee received what is normally three months’ worth of rain in twelve hours, resulting in massive flooding and the loss of more than twenty human lives. A week or so before that, Hurricane Grace devastated parts of the Yucatan peninsula, again with loss of life. China, Japan, and Turkey have all experienced flooding in recent weeks, with landslides in Japan resulting in dozens of fatalities.
In contrast, much of the world is on fire. In the US, this year’s wildfires have consumed two and a half million acres, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Entire towns have been destroyed. Air quality alerts have been issued over a wide area, even here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, where smoke from Canadian wildfires made our air dangerous for sensitive groups. In France, Greece, Italy, and Turkey, forests have been destroyed, herds of livestock died horribly, and ancient monuments are threatened. The fire currently raging in Siberia is larger than all the others combined.
The world’s scientists are warning us that these extremes may become the new normal as atmospheric CO2 reaches levels not seen for 800,000 years and global temperatures rise. A warming world results in stronger hurricanes, which draw their strength from warm ocean water.
Areas blessed with an abundance of water sources are likely to see more severe storms and increased flooding. More arid regions are already seeing droughts and fires of historic proportions.
These same scientists also tell us that we have the tools to reduce our emissions and mitigate at least some of this devastation. Will we heed the warning in time?