Hurricane Ida did not shock me.
Of course, as I read about displaced families and destroyed homes, I was saddened and worried for the people of Louisiana, but I wasn’t surprised. Once the coverage for a natural disaster ends, it is replaced by the next tragedy. Forest fires keep burning California. The sea level rises, overtaking the houses by the shores. Temperatures are reaching unprecedented highs and the duration of droughts is lengthening. More extreme natural disasters are the new normal.
We often talk about global warming as if it were an imminent threat. Politicians discuss reduce our carbon emissions in the future to prevent the Earth from changing – as if the world as we know it would cease to exist if we do not change our behavior.
But if you look around at the ever increasing reactions of nature, it is clear that the world has already changed. The globe has already warmed up. It is time to accept this reality and put more emphasis on adapting to the already changing climate.
The changing environment may not seem like a big deal. It hasn’t affected my life that much. I am fortunate to have lived most of my life inland, in an area full of clean air and in a structurally sound house. But that’s not the case for a lot of people in the United States and around the world. Many people in our society, who are already socially disadvantaged or live in an area prone to natural disasters, are already feeling the implications of global warming.
People with lower socioeconomic status are more likely to live in areas where concentrations of air pollutants and lack air conditioning in their homes. This means that when global temperatures rise and warm polluted air, residents are likely to develop respiratory health problems. Cities like Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – which have dense populations – have unhealthy levels of air pollution as judged by the Environmental Protection Agency. As the Earth continues to heat up, people who live in areas with high air pollution and limited access to cool places will face more health problems.
This question of poorly built houses also exacerbates the effects of flooding. Often when these unsanitary homes are flooded, residents cannot afford to repair their destroyed homes, leaving families homeless. Many inhabitants of these houses put their lives in danger because they not the means evacuate during the storm.
Hurricane Ida is a prime example of this problem. Those who can afford a generator, stay in a hotel, or move to a new location have been able to ensure their safety. Yet many New Orleans residents do not have the financial means or an automobile to evacuate. Leaving after a natural disaster is a privilege rather than the norm. Instead, we should focus on establishing evacuation methods that allow everyone to weather the storm safely.
Around the world, global warming is creating a new group of displaced people – climate refugees. Due to rising coastlines and storm surges, millions of people are unlikely to have homes for years to come. In fact, in February, many inhabitants of the Nicaraguan coasts were forced to migrate inland due to hurricanes Eta and Iota.
Now is the time to adapt to climate change. The status quo on how we build and support our communities is no longer achievable. We need government support to build safe housing in areas that are not prone to flooding. We need better air quality regulations, affordable housing in safe places, and more efficient and efficient public transportation systems. It shouldn’t be a luxury to live in a safe, structurally healthy place with clean air.
Accepting and adapting to human-induced environmental change is not a new idea – countries around the globe have already started modifying their Actions. In France, after private companies and the government worked together to invest in better ventilation and air conditioning across the country’s infrastructure, the number of deaths after heat waves decreased over the past 10 years.
Bangladesh is located at low elevation and is facing sea level rise at an extremely rapid rate. To protect its people, the Bangladeshi government implemented new measures, such as a nationwide early warning system that will alert people to evacuate or reside in their disaster-proof shelters. This warning system decreases dramatically the death rate from storms and floods.
Millions of people are already feeling the effects of climate change. If we recognize that climate change is here, instead of a future possibility, we can move forward adapting to this new environment.
We still need to finance and support measures that limit our carbon footprint. We must continue to promote the prevention of further changes, but we must adapt to higher sea levels, warmer temperatures and more natural disasters.
The climate has changed. So let’s change with it.
Talia Spillerman writes about anything and everything. Write to him at [email protected].