Five monstrous hurricanes in one month hit the United States. Mexico had its strongest earthquake in a century. There were murderous mudslides in Sierra Leone and a total of 15 raging wildfires through California in one weekend. This summer brought heatwaves across Europe and monsoons in Bangladesh. Now, there is a predicted forecast for the snowiest winter in years for Britain.
This is the reality of the weather experienced across our planet in only the past few months. Millions of civilians across five continents have experienced the devastating loss of their homes, their livelihoods, and their families. This is not happening gradually; this is happening now.
Hurricane Irma alone has broken multiple records including the longest sustained winds of 185 mph and the lowest pressure of an Atlantic hurricane, excluding those from the Gulf of Mexico. British Columbia is facing its worst wildfire season in all its history, and San Francisco broke an all-time heat record, hitting 106 degrees Fahrenheit in a usually mild climate.
Despite all this evidence, there are still plenty of people out there that reject that climate change is happening. They argue that the Earth’s temperature has changed before, that this weather is just a fluke, and that climate change is not responsible for all this devastation that we are witnessing right now.
And they would be right: climate change is not responsible for this, but the human population is.
It is true that climate change does not cause hurricanes, nor wildfires nor monsoons, for all of these events have been taking place for centuries.
But it is the frequency and force of our natural disasters that suggest something is badly wrong. Couple this with the empirical evidence that our carbon emissions have increased the Earth’s temperature by a whole degree, and surely the notion that we are sabotaging our planet must make sense.
Nowhere has such a nonsensical approach to the issue of climate change been seen than at the heart of the Trump administration. In eight short months since his inauguration, amidst the high profile exits of some of his top advisors and officials, Trump has renewed his anti-climate change agenda with sustained attacks on what he sees as some kind of conspiracy.
At the heart of that policy shift was his commitment to withdrawing from The Paris Agreement, a process that should be completed by 2020.
Scepticism is no longer a marginalised force, it is at the heart of policy making and is gathering traction among those who feel that climate change has been forced upon us all to justify what they would call natural changes to our environment and planet.
The reality is rather different, however. In the name of political point scoring and providing sustenance to the ‘alt-right’, climate change denial has become second nature. It is, to borrow a key message from Trump’s presidential campaign, a stick to beat the establishment with.
There is a very valid question that needs to be asked here. How can we expect the world’s population to cotton on to the fact our planet is in grave danger if our leaders are blind to their own ignorance?
Indeed, the messages which have grown louder and more frequent are only fulfilling the agenda of those with interests tied to the continued use of fossil fuels. Profits, in their selfish eyes, come before anything else in spite of the overwhelming evidence which suggests that our collective recklessness is having an impact.
And yet, despite the doom and gloom and immense suffering across the globe, we were given a welcome reminder about the strength of humanity and power of community in the immediate aftermath of these disasters.
Social media, so often chastised as an empty vacuum that acted as the catalyst for the likes of Trump’s surge to the White House by distorting the truth and the fact from fake news, has come into its own.
It was not just there to warn people about the immediate dangers, it actually saved lives. As Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas, people turned to Twitter as they pleaded to rescuers to prioritise them.
And then there was the reaction from those, like NFL star JJ Watt, who took matters into his own hands with the 28-year-old single-handedly setting up a fundraising page that has since topped $30 million.
There are, however, no easy answers, but pretending this isn’t happening isn’t good enough. As the saying goes: the first step to solving a problem is recognising there is one.
Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center