A Storm is Brewing


PrintThe reality of climate change

By Joey Kennedy

The storms. They’re coming, and they’re bigger than ever.

Climate change deniers can say storms aren’t getting worse, that the pattern has repeated itself since forever. That we’ve always had droughts like we’re having today. That the oceans have always worked to balance themselves.

That, dear readers, is just hogwash.

Thunderstorms, drought, rising temperatures across the globe, species intrusion —they all are happening right now.

And, frankly, we may not be able to turn this catastrophe around.

Certainly we’re in a bad place with an administration whose leader, Donald Trump, has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government..

The scientists, with reams of data and years of observation and knowledge, say one thing; Trump, with his tiny fingers, tweets another.

Those who aren’t critical thinkers simply can’t sort it out. So they blame the media, the liberals, the environmentalists and the scientists themselves, because they won’t blame coal or cars or pollution in the air and the seas.

They can’t take any blame themselves.

This has been a terrible hurricane season. Fortunately, Birmingham is far enough away from the coast that we usually only get remnants—some wind, a lot of rain, every now and then power outages.

Remember, a hurricane doesn’t need to be a Category 4 or 5 to do major damage. Harvey struck Southeastern Texas as a Category 4, quickly diminished, and continued inland.

But it stalled, and dumped more than two feet of rain over the Houston area and Southwestern Louisiana. The floods that Harvey caused can’t be planned for. Two feet of rain in a short amount of time will create havoc anywhere.

I joke with my wife that if our house is ever flooded, it’ll be the end times. We are on a hill, not in a flood zone, and have a sump pump in working order.

But two feet of rain? I’m not sure what that would do.

The storms are getting worse. Don’t think they aren’t—no matter what the science-deficient people now ensconced in Washington, D.C., or Huntsville, or wherever they happen to be, have to say.

Be curious. Check it out yourself.

While disputes about climate change mainly concern what is causing it, not whether it exists, that’s a dodge. A bad one. We’re causing it. Us. Humans. Across the planet.

It’s us, and don’t think it isn’t.

It’s your fault. And mine.

Not long ago, I got to hear Dr. Jim McClintock speak again on climate change.

McClintock is the endowed professor of Polar and Marine Biology at the UAB Department of Biology. He has been traveling to Antarctica for his research more than the past quarter century. During those 25 years, his research has been continuously funded by the National Science Foundation. His main focus is on marine invertebrate nutrition, reproduction, and, primarily, Antarctic marine algae and invertebrates.

The climate is changing, McClintock says, and make no mistake about that.

The Earth is warming, but that doesn’t mean if there is a really cold spell somewhere, warming isn’t occurring.

With climate change, some areas will be warmer (Alabama and the United States have experienced some of the hottest summers on record over the past decade), but other areas will be colder. Droughts will last longer, which means wildfires will be worse.

As important, ocean acidification is getting worse, and that’s even more difficult to turn around than higher carbon dioxide saturation in the atmosphere. Ocean acidification is the result of the ocean efficiently absorbing carbon dioxide—from coal plants, cars, ships, airplanes, natural sources, and other industrial processes —and it’s having a devastating impact on marine life. McClintock’s well-regarded book, Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land (2012) covers this in detail and with an accessible narrative.McClintock’s contributions to Antarctic science led the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to tag part of Antarctica as “McClintock Point.”

McClintock and many others are climate change heroes. Donald Trump is not.

After Harvey came Irma, and for the first time in recent history, a powerful storm went through Florida, from the Keys through Georgia. Following Irma was Jose, then Katia. There was Marie, another major storm. Marie was trailed by Lee, not much to worry about.

As of this writing, Marie was the nemesis, but that doesn’t mean powerful hurricanes can’t extend into October and even early November. There could be (maybe now) a Nate, Ophelia, and Phillipe.

Superstorm Sandy was the most powerful hurricane of 2012, and it was born in late October. It wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and scooted up the East Coast of the U.S., taking a hard left turn and, as writer Eric Zerkel documented, “slammed head first into the population dense East Coast, changing history forever.” The direct effects of Sandy were being felt well into November, and the continuing impact is evident even today, five years later.

The world has always been affected by major storms—tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones—though not at the levels we’re seeing today. Drought has always been with us, though not at the levels we’re seeing today. Ocean acidification is destroying life-giving species, in the Antarctic and elsewhere, because of the oceans’ ability to absorb deadly carbon dioxide. The ocean has always been subject to increased acidification, but not at the levels we’re seeing today.

We cannot continue to pour CO2 into the atmosphere at the rates we’re doing it now and not expect a reckoning.

We must work toward clean energy and alternatives to the fossil fuels that stimulate climate change. Climate change is real, whether you admit it or not. And now it’s our responsibility.

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