Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt sparked controversy last Thursday when he claimed that Hurricane Irma was not the proper time to discuss climate change. "Here's the issue," he told CNN, "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." This is not the first time Pruitt's stance on the environment has been controversial. He has been leading efforts to roll back EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions even though experts agree that these contribute to climate change.
Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Hurricane Irma battered islands in the Caribbean and leveled parts of the Florida Keys before making its way up Florida's west coast. Pruitt says that it is insensitive to those harmed by Irma to discuss climate change now. But if not now, when? A better understanding of climate change, human impact on it, and how to prevent it could help prevent future catastrophic storms from occurring.
For scientists, climate change is disputed as a global issue that is greater than just the existence of gravity. However, it has become very controversial in political spheres. After Irma, it is more important than ever to talk about climate change and understand how it affects the weather. It is believed by professor Ben Kirtman of the University of Miami, who specializes in atmospheric science, that if we do not take the time to really comprehend the impacts of climate change, we are doing Florida and the rest of the country a huge disservice. “It’s really important to direct resources and funds to the crisis on the ground at the moment, of course,” he said to the New York Times. “But I don’t see what’s causing these storms, and what’s contributing to making it worse is necessarily mutually exclusive.”
Experts have been clear that global warming worsens storms. Hurricanes are formed and fueled by warm water. Warmer water temperatures are leading to stronger storms and a phenomenon called “rapid intensification,” in which storms grow stronger more quickly. This can be observed in both Harvey and Irma. Warmer temperatures globally could also lead to hurricanes forming where they typically would not, as well as a longer hurricane season(The Washington Post). Climate change also leads to increased sea levels, which make storm surges higher(Earth Day Network). If something does not change, and quickly, it’s likely that we will see more and more storms like Harvey and Irma in the future.
To combat climate change, you can do several things. The most important thing you can do is educate yourself. Once you have done so, you can write to or call your representatives and tell them to take action against climate change. Additionally, you can support candidates who make the environment a priority. On an individual level, you can reduce your carbon footprint by driving less, eating less meat, and you can support environmental organizations, such as the Environmental Defense, Greenpeace, and the National Resources Defense Council.
Climate change doesn’t cause hurricanes, but experts conclude that it does worsen them. We can’t prevent hurricanes altogether, but it is possible to reduce their effects and prevent irreversible damage to our planet. We can, and must, make an effort to reduce the impact of future storms while helping those impacted by Irma.
Eve is an avid writer based in the Sunshine State. She enjoys reading, writing, playing with her cats, and participating in Mock Trial. In the future, she plans to go to law school to pursue a career as a district attorney.