What They’re Saying: Climate Change Catastrophes and Their Longterm Impacts
Washington, D.C. – The West coast continues to burn with 60 wildfires raging across the region. Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Sally is now moving through eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, prompting warnings of flash flooding and tornadoes, as a new tropical depression in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico is forming.
Still, with climate catastrophes taking over the country, President Trump and the GOP continue to ignore the realities of climate change by dismissing the science and experts linking the crisis to extreme weather events. This past week, when discussing climate change and the wildfires, Trump claimed that “I don’t think science knows actually,” and then used his Twitter to falsely link the wildfires to arson.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
- Professor of Risk, Resilience and Global Health at University College London Ilan Kelman “Climate change is not stopping because of lockdowns.” “The extreme weather which we are witnessing is not excessive in terms of the history of humanity … it is very much in line with what we would expect under climate change.” [CNN], 9/18/2020]
- East Palo Alto City Council Candidate Antonio Lopez: “We talk about the digital divide. Now we’re having an air purifier and an AC divide.” “What gets me is that we’re having this conversation in American cities. And not just in American cities but American cities that are in proximity to the most affluent places in the world. It’s bizarre, and it’s jarring.” [Washington Post, 9/18/2020]
- Atmospheric Scientist at the University of Georgia J. Marshall Shepherd: “We’ve always known that climate change would make extremes more extreme on all sides of the ledger. It’s counterintuitive to some people that global warming can amplify drought and heavy rain, but it’s simply physics.” [USA Today, 9/18/2020]
- Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts: “I want the public to completely understand that our office has no intelligence or information about any group committing any crimes.” “No arrests have been made associated with any group.” [New York Times, 9/17/2020]
- Assistant Professor of Pulmonology at University of California San Francisco Dr. Stephanie Christensen: “We don’t know for sure if COVID-19 is going to be worse in the setting of wildfires, but we can speculate that is true.” “If you have inflammation from one thing like wildfires and you get COVID-19 on top of that also causing inflammation, that could compound each other and cause hospitalizations or other bad outcomes.” [The Hill, 9/18/2020]
- Environmental Toxicologist and Assistant Professor at Boise State University Luke Montrose: “We don’t know much about coronavirus and wildfire smoke, but the data that we do have on wildfire smoke would suggest that it has the ability to suppress our immune system and leave us vulnerable to the coronavirus.” [The Hill, 9/18/2020]
- Research scientist at Yale Jennifer Marlon: “There is a lot of evidence behind the idea that personalizing climate change and helping people understand the local impacts are more important than talking about how it’s influencing melting glaciers or talking about wildfires when you live in Ohio.” [New York Times, 9/18/2020]
- Senior Fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center Jeffrey Mount: “Just because a place has an extreme rainfall risk doesn’t mean that it also doesn’t have an extreme drought risk, and a sea-level rise risk, and a wildfire risk,” “That, in a nutshell, is California.” [New York Times, 9/18/2020]
- University of California Scientist John Abatzoglou: “If we are able to keep the amount of warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we dramatically reduce the area that sees an emergence in this fire weather index compared to if we warm by 3°C.” [Vox, 9/17/2020]
There were four billion-dollar weather disasters in the United States last month, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday: the derecho storm that hit the Midwest, Hurricanes Isaias and Laura, and California’s wildfires. While that is not a record for financial damage in a single month, it highlights the growing cost of climate change in the country.
Washington Post: Rarefied air: Taking a healthy breath is now a luxury in California
Wealthier families have fled smoky areas, staying in second homes or renting expensive vacation residences. Not all families can afford air purifiers, which start at about $200 and clean only one room. During frequent power outages that now happen during fire season, only wealthier families who can afford expensive backup generators will still be able to run their purifiers.It all adds up to one increasingly dire rule of thumb: As the impacts of climate change become a reality, it’s healthier to be wealthy.
On his latest podcast episode on Thursday, Joe Rogan took aim at protesters in Portland, Ore., calling their clashes with police “madness.” For further evidence, he pointed to the massive forest fires tearing through Oregon this month.“They’ve arrested left-wing people for lighting these forest fires,” he said on “The Joe Rogan Experience” to his millions of listeners. “You know, air-quote, ‘activists.’ This is also something that’s not widely being reported.” That’s not true, according to both the FBI and local law enforcement in Oregon.
Washington Post: This is how we know climate change is making wildfires worse
President Trump would like to believe that forest management, not climate change, is the reason for the more destructive wildfires that have burned the West this summer. “It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch,” he said at a briefing in California on the fires on Monday. When a state official told him that science indicates the opposite, Trump pushed back: “Well, I don’t think science knows, actually.” This is false. There is widespread agreement among fire scientists that climate change amplifies the effects of land management decisions, in California and elsewhere.
A firefighter has died while battling the El Dorado fire in San Bernardino County, which has burned nearly 20,000 acres. Few details were immediately available. “The name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends, and fellow firefighters during this time,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement released Friday.
The West Coast of the United States is still deep in the throes of an epic wildfire season, with California officials warning that the record area of 3.1 million acres burned in the state so far this year is likely to keep growing.
Wildfires that have left parts of California and other western states with some of the worst air quality in the world are posing a major threat to people with asthma and other underlying health conditions who are already at greater risk of serious COVID-19 complications.
The fortified downtown area of Pensacola, which has received significant attention and hurricane-proofing in recent years, saw significant flooding this week, but its high waters receded quickly as the storm passed early Wednesday and the tide went out. Wedgewood, on the other hand, is nearly defenseless against storm surge off the Gulf of Mexico, and its waters do not go away so quickly. It also faces another challenge: It is surrounded by landfills and a giant sandpit, which has long caused residents to raise health concerns and also have served to channel water toward residents’ homes, they say.
Gulf Shores High School was back. Classes were in session, albeit with masked teachers and masked students. Football games were played with masked cheerleaders and masked band members and fans who were told to avoid crowding together. Then Hurricane Sally came to town.
The National Hurricane Center wrote Hurricane Teddy’s peak winds had increased 20 mph since the last advisory at 11 a.m., rapidly intensifying to a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph maximum sustained winds. Some additional strengthening is possible tonight, and the Hurricane Center predicts its winds to peak around 150 mph before likely fluctuations in intensity into the weekend.
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS
Stuart A. Thompson and Yaryna Serkez, New York Times: Everywhere Has Its Own Climate Risk. What Is It Where You Live?
For most of us, climate change can feel like an amorphous threat — with the greatest dangers lingering ominously in the future and the solutions frustratingly out of reach. So perhaps focusing on today’s real harms could help us figure out how to start dealing with climate change. Here’s one way to do that: by looking at the most significant climate threat unfolding in your own backyard.
All of these extreme weather events can be linked to global warming, caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly from humans burning fossil fuels. They’re grim reminders that the world has a much bigger existential crisis on its hands than Covid-19. And it will take a lot more than a few months of forgoing air and car travel to stop it.
The destructive nature of wildfire and hurricane cycles have been exacerbated by climate change, with fires and storms causing significantly more damage early on in seasons that typically extend into fall. But the distance between Democratic and Republican lawmakers keeps climate change legislation from progressing through Congress, restrained in part by an electorate that consistently prioritizes other issues.
We’re barely over halfway through the nation’s hurricane and wildfire seasons, and both have already been devastating and record-breaking. This extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season – like the catastrophic wildfire season on the West Coast – has focused attention on the role of climate change.