Climate science is complex, and one must be cautious about blaming any single meteorological event on climate change. Nevertheless, a finding from March of 2017 by an MIT meteorologist is worth noting: The type of hurricane that strengthens rapidly and unpredictably right before making landfall will become more common with global warming, according to an American Meteorological Society article.
Hurricane Michael was exactly that type of hurricane. Previously, that type of a hurricane was thought to be a once in a hundred year event. Now it’s anybody’s guess.
Climate change should be on everybody’s mind since the United Nations warned that we only have 12 years to avert catastrophe. But given the scale of the problem and the current political inertia surrounding it, the UN is not optimistic about our success.
Twelve years is not much time, but our country accomplished a lot in one particular 12-year span.
In 1957, Russia put the first man-made satellite into orbit. By 1969, Americans were walking on the moon. Our country recognized a challenge and rose to meet it. United, we won the space race.
Even more to our credit is a challenge that we overcame between 1941 and 1945. After our country was attacked at Pearl Harbor, we almost instantly mobilized our entire population: Gas was rationed, victory gardens planted, scrap metal collected and prayers were lifted.
The world’s worst depression had just tested the mettle of citizens who not only knew how to make sacrifices for a greater good, but were eager to do so. That’s the kind of commitment demanded by the challenge of climate change.
Unfortunately, my generation has grown soft and complacent. Now when we’re attacked, we defend ourselves with credit cards. But we can’t shop our way out of climate disaster, quite the opposite. Unbridled consumerism is what got us into this mess. We can fatalistically spend and drive our way to doom, or we can arise and once again lead the world. Future generations can look back on us as heroes or as quarrelsome cowards. Which will it be?
Everything about the political and intellectual climate that pervades our country suggests that we will not rise to meet the challenge of the moment. But politics, like weather, can change rapidly. It only took Michael 73 hours from the time it became a named tropical storm until it turned into one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States.
Most pundits didn’t feel the winds of discontent that carried Trump to success. Now, the calm, sunny eye of the storm distracts many from the climate that created the storm. But those in power should remember that once the eye passes, the winds blow with equal force from the opposite direction.