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  • Dylan D’Agate

Severe Weather: Threat to Life as We Know It

What are some of the causes for the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events throughout the globe? Years of drought and wildfires in the Western United States? More powerful hurricanes and flooding throughout the planet? Severe cold affecting Texas and other Midwestern states? We know that human activities are primarily responsible, with the burning of fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapping heat in our atmosphere and increasing water evaporation. And it is the rise in atmospheric moisture that seeds the clouds, making storms much more powerful.

Climate Change: Adaptation Before Reversal?

Kevin Trenberth, Ph.D., Distinguished Scholar at the National Center of Atmospheric Research and Nobel Peace Prize recipient through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believes it would take a very long time to reverse the global heating of our planet. Meanwhile, we must adapt in order to sustain life on Earth. Dr. Trenberth emphasizes the importance of recognizing the problem (mainly carbon dioxide emissions) and building resilience to it while markedly decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels and increasing our conversion to sustainable energy. In the case of hurricanes, for example, better water management and drainage systems, wind-resistant structures, and warning/evacuation systems would keep us more prepared. He stresses that we need to be mindful when passing building codes to help structures become more resilient, with government enforcement of proper codes and regulations.

Educating Youth

Attribution is a starting point! Understanding attribution is essential in teaching young people about the causes of severe weather. How can youth mitigate climate change? Engage with our government representatives -- through petitions, lobbying, protests, even legal action. Dr. Trenberth mentions the Juliana case, which involved 21 young people who sued the federal government, alleging a constitutional due process right to a "climate system capable of sustaining human life." (See below under “Resources” for additional information.) He stresses that probably the most important way the young can influence change is through voting and making personal choices that are environmentally favorable: from home electric use mitigation, how we heat our homes, drying our clothes, and travel.




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