I live on the Texas Gulf coast. I have been through every hurricane in this area since Carla. As a matter of fact, Carla was generally referred to as the biggest storm that ever hit Galveston until Ike came through. Ike knocked out our electricity for two weeks. We do have a generator, but after Ike, I had to drive 50 miles to get gasoline to run it because the pumps around here weren’t running without electricity.
My household prepared for Laura, and were so lucky that yesterday evening it turned north towards Lake Charles. I know the people in Lake Charles weren’t so lucky. Personally, I didn’t think that a storm this early would become so powerful. It was 5mph from being a category 5 hurricane. Category 5 hurricanes used to be the exception, but no longer.
Here are some facts about hurricane trends.
America and the world are getting more frequent and bigger multibillion dollar tropical catastrophes like Hurricane Laura because of a combination of increased coastal development, natural climate cycles and man-made climate change, experts say. The list of recent whoppers keeps growing: Katrina, Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, Michael, Dorian.
In the last three years, the United States has had seven hurricane disasters that each caused at least $1 billion in damage, totaling $335 billion. In all of the 1980s, there were six, and their damage totaled $38.2 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All those figures are adjusted for the cost of living. Of course, there are more people, more structures along the coast than back when I was a kid, which adds to the cost.
The Atlantic now averages three major hurricanes a year, based on a 30-year running average. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was two. Scientists agree that waters are warming, and that serves as hurricane fuel, said NOAA climate scientist Jim Kossin. His study found that, once a storm formed, the chances of its attaining major storm status globally increased by 8 percent a decade since 1979. In the Atlantic, chances went up by 49 percent a decade.
While climate change is not the most important factor in warming waters, it contributes to creating more damaging storms in other ways, by causing a rising sea level that worsens storm surges and making storms move more slowly and produce more rain, scientists say. In tropical waters, coral reefs help to dissipate energy, but warming waters and increased carbon in the water is turning coral reefs to jelly and slime. Development along shores and the loss of estuary plants also contributes to less protection for shorelines.
All of this means that we should get used to more catastrophic storms.
So, those who say it is too expensive to move towards sustainable energy and reduced carbon emissions are not taking into account the cost of disaster. Add to the storm disaster the fires out west which destroy so many homes and one can see the cost of not doing anything about reducing carbon is more expensive in lives and property. And there is also the health costs of air pollution itself. There is a correlation between mortality from covid-19 and people who live in high air pollution. And let’s not forget that petroleum is a non-renewable resource. We will have to move towards sustainable energy. Let’s not wait until the last minute. We have certainly learned from covid-19 the issues that occur when we don’t follow a plan based on facts and evidence created to mitigate disaster.