Column: California wildfires to Florida hurricanes, how the rich game climate change in its favor.
As the world’s population grows more affluent, climate change intensifies. It makes extreme weather events like drought and drought-like events more likely, and those events are far more destructive and tragic—and far more common in the United States—than they were 20 years ago.
The American people have become much wealthier and more comfortable in recent decades. But the United States is experiencing a significant uptick in extreme weather events. The United States experienced a near record-breaking September with more than two dozen major hurricanes in 2017. The Trump administration’s response in response to Hurricane Maria last year has caused some to worry that the United States will be more vulnerable to weather-related catastrophes in the years to come.
Experts attribute the spike in extreme weather events, more so than the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, to the rise of global warming. Weather experts have known that climate change is intensifying extreme weather events for decades.
The rise in extreme weather events can be traced to the interaction between two factors: increased carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere and the melting of ice sheets in the Arctic region, which increases greenhouse gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. Scientists have long recognized that a global rise in greenhouse gas emissions would significantly increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather, including the extreme heat waves in California and Miami—which killed tens of thousands of people in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2017, and 2019—and the devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather-related disasters in Florida and the United States in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
More Than Climate Change
There is no debate, in fact, that climate change is the primary factor increasing the frequency and intensity of weather-related catastrophes.
But the increase in extreme weather events is not the sole or even primary cause. The factors that push the United States into weather-related catastrophes are more than the simple effects of climate change.
In the last few years, we have seen a substantial rise in extreme weather events in places other than the United States.
In the summer of 2017, a heat wave ravaged southern California and killed 13 people. The 2016 hurricane season