Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Hurricanes spark climate change debates

Getting into the hurricane business sure is not cheap.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated Houston, Texas, Florida and the Caribbean islands from late August to mid-September, and now hurricane Maria has done the same to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.

Maria obliterated Puerto Rico, leaving much of the American commonwealth flooded and without power, according to a Sept. 26 CNN article. A Sept. 20 report by CNBC estimated the combined damage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma to be anywhere from $150 billion to $250 billion.

In the wake of the historic storms, the already hot-button issue of climate change has once again been brought to the forefront of the American political sphere.

With this has come the inevitable meme-wars on social media, with many people exclusively blaming climate change for it all, while others say that the storms had nothing to do with it at all.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Plattsburgh State, Eric Leibensperger disagreed with the idea of climate change being the sole cause of these storms, but added a caveat.

“That doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t influencing these individual storms. One of the things that happened with Harvey, then Irma, and now Maria, is their strength,” Leibensperger said.

“We’re seeing warm temperatures in the North Atlantic, and that’s the energy source for hurricanes. While a single storm itself may not have been caused by climate change, the conditions have been made a bit more ripe for them to be stronger.”

Harvey and Irma certainly both drive this point home. According to a CNN article, Harvey dropped 51 inches of rainfall on its affected areas, while Irma set a new record for maintaining 185 mph winds at 37 hours.

This comes after the Trump administration withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accords in June.

The accords were created as a landmark agreement between nearly 200 countries from around the world with the main purpose of lessening greenhouse gas emissions according to a BBC article that came out after the accords were agreed upon. This goal was set in order to prevent the global temperature from increasing two degrees Celsius, a number that most scientists agree we could not come back from.

Now that Trump’s administration has turned its back on that agreement, Leibensperger hopes that something else will be implemented.

“Hopefully the administration has a plan for climate change, and they aren’t treating it as a wait-and-see issue,” Leibensperger said. “The Paris Climate Accord arranged emission reductions from countries around the world to make sure we meet that 2 degree mark. I hope to at least see a plan from our current administration. It may be very different than the Paris Accord, but I would at least like to see a plan.”

The president backing out of the agreement, though, does not necessarily mean that everyone in the country wants to.

According to an NBC news article, many states, including Maine and Hawaii, and a group of over 370 mayors from cities all across the US have moved to implement the climate emission regulations of the accords.

This fact was not lost on Leibensperger.

“Something that I take heart in, and am excited about is that states are going into this full bore themselves,” Leibensperger said. “New York state, and California, and many states in New England are banding together and saying that even though they’re no longer federally mandated, they are going to reduce their carbon emissions as they would have under the Paris Accord.”
This political debate about a non-political issue may continue to rage on, but the facts still remain the same. Climate change did not cause the recent string of storms that have hit North America, but there is much evidence supporting the fact that it did make them worse, and will continue to do so in the future.

Leibensperger ended on how he thinks this divide could be better bridged by everyone.

“I think we have to be more constructive in facilitating discussion and trying to find common ground,” Leibensperger said. “That can be hard to arrange, because they are hard discussions. But you have to try to effectively converse rather than berating each other with memes over Facebook.”

Email Ben Watson at

- Advertisment -spot_img