Lessons Learned from Hurricanes & Connecting Climate Dots

 

When I left Florida five years ago, hurricanes weren’t high on my list of reasons. It was more the rat race; the traffic, the cost of living, the apathy and oh yeah, no more hurricanes.

Living in South Florida for over twenty years, I’d seen a lot of hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Andrew, a cat 5, that hit Miami in 1992. Before the days of cell phones, it took several days to get word that our friends and co-workers in the southern part of the county were safe. Many of them lost their homes.

I remember hugging one of my co-workers a week after Andrew and hearing her story. We were both crying. My friend told me that her house shook with the roaring winds. Yes, hurricane winds sound like a freight train. She thought they would all die.

Hurricanes teach us a lot. I’ve witnessed the destruction of a cat 5. Standing there with everything laid bare, it looks like you might imagine the aftermath of a bomb.

Hurricanes teach us that stuff doesn’t matter. It can all be gone in matter of minutes. In the end, it never gave us joy anyway. Our stuff is not memorable.  It’s not even close to remembering good conversations and meals with friends, kindnesses from strangers or smiles and hugs.

Hurricanes also teach respect. Respect for Mother Nature. When it comes down to it, being the mammal walking around with the big brain does not give us dominion over nature. We need to live within the laws of physics and chemistry.

I’ve heard so many times “we can’t link one weather event to climate change.” It seems cliché. And it’s also an excuse for inaction. It’s a way to avoid the truth that we are the problem. Thus, we must change.

Yes, hurricanes and floods were part of the natural system before humans began shaping their landscape, but we’ve turned up the heat.

There is plenty of science to link hurricanes and extreme weather to human caused climate change. Below are a few facts . (List courtesy of Climate Reality.)

  • Higher sea surface temperatures add more fuel to hurricanes.
  • A warming world evaporates more water from the oceans. What goes up must come down. When all this extra moisture is gets caught up in a hurricane, it can result in torrential downpours and more flooding as it makes landfall.
  • Sea-level rise can greatly increase storm surge. With higher sea levels, storm surges are able to move further inland, and this can lead to more widespread and greater damage.

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Are Catastrophic Weather Events the New Normal?

 

There are a lot of words being used to describe Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath; unprecedented, historic, catastrophic, one-in-500, one-in-1000, costliest natural disaster in US history. You get the idea; Harvey’s devastation was massive and on a scale that is hard to wrap our brains around.

I even heard one stat that said we’ve had 10 1/1000… Continue reading

Before the Flood, Getting Out of Florida

 

I spoke with my friend Robin this week. Robin lives in Miami Shores, a mostly upper-middle class neighborhood located in Miami Dade county. It’s near the causeway that takes you to the beach. Robin was born on Miami Beach; she’s a native.

On our call, Robin recounted a conversation she recently had with a friend who lives on… Continue reading

My Grandfather was a Coal Miner

 

My grandfather was a coal miner. He was also an American immigrant from southern Italy. He served in the US Army and proudly participated in our in democracy. My mother remembers him putting on his best suit and walking for miles to cast his vote on election day.

Back in his mountain origin of Bocchigliero, he was a peasant farmer. Like others, he came to America to… Continue reading

A Fool with a Plan

“A fool with a plan will go farther than a genius with no plan.”

It was late 2008 and everyone in the room laughed as billionaire T. Boone Pickens retold this story from his college years. His father was concerned with Boone’s lack of direction in choosing a major. Dad came to visit his son and said;
“Listen son, a fool with a plan can beat a

The Anthropocene and the Fierce Urgency of Now

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”   — Martin Luther King Jr.

Congress, Enact a Carbon Tax

image_largeCongress- listen up; forty companies with annual revenues of $611 billion want you to take action on climate change- including GM, the world’s largest auto manufacturer. What are you waiting for?
This past month, GM joined a stellar group, including Starbucks, Adidas, L’Oréal & IKEA. These companies are urging federal lawmakers to

Obama Energy Policy Lacks Moral Urgency

A lot of my friends are still on a high about Obama’s recent discovery of the words climate change. He broke his climate silence after Hurricane Sandy. And climate change took prominent place in his inaugural address. In Tuesday’s the State of the Union, he brought it up again.
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more

How the GOP can answer Obama’s climate challenge

By Mark Reynolds

If you’ve been waiting with great frustration for our government to address climate change, President Obama’s second inaugural speech last week was both stunning and exhilarating.

In his most forceful language to date, the President made it clear he intends to devote much of his energy in his second term to “reduce the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would… Continue reading

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