Tornados, Hurricanes and Global Warming, Oh My

By Claire Anderson

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I’m from New York City, home to over 8.2 million people, the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants and the best pizza ever. On Saturday, Sept. 8, during a 50-foot wide tornado with wind speeds of around 70 miles per hour, tourists visited neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.

After making their way across the United States and causing four deaths in Oklahoma on Sept. 7, the storms caused damage to power lines, beaches, lifted roofs off houses, tore down walls and lifted cars off the streets, but no injuries were reported, according to New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelley.

Tornadoes most often occur in the Tornado Alley region of the Midwest with a few throughout the rest of the North America and the world.  But over the last three months, they have been touching down more frequently. According to the United State Geological Survey, there have been 34 earthquakes worldwide with a magnitude of 5.1 to 7.8 and they are in more uncommon territory, like the Northeast. They are also becoming more deadly: last year 550 people were killed by tornados, making it the deadliest season in 75 years.

The years from 2001 to 2012 have been the hottest in recorded history and continues to rise, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The change in temperature and global climate is due to global warming. Hotter temperatures caused by the burning of fuels for cars, and other industries have created holes in the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects the earth from most of the sun’s dangerous waves, keeping the earth from getting too hot. The holes allow more heat into the atmosphere, causing the polar ice caps to melt. This throws off the natural weather systems, causing havoc, such as more intense rain and snow storms than ever before.

Last year alone, there was a tornado in Springfield, droughts and more intense snowstorms, like the one during Halloween weekend when thousands of people in the Amherst area lost power. There was damage to power lines, the water system and infrastructure.  Not to mention hurricane season: Hurricane Irene inflicted damage up and down the east coast, including flash flooding in Vermont where houses floated away.
In the past decade, some of the worst natural disasters in human history have occurred, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is considered by some to be one of the five worst hurricanes recorded in human history, killing an estimated 1,833 people, stranding thousands more and causing over $81 billion worth of property damage, according to the NAOO Tropical Cyclone Report of Hurricane Katrina.

In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, causing roughly 52 powerful aftershocks, killing 316,000 people, injuring 300,000 and leaving an estimated 1 million people homeless.

In 2011, a 9.0 earthquake rocked Japan, the most powerful to ever hit the nation and one of the five most powerful ever recorded. The hurricane triggered a tsunami which devastated the entire country and led to a Level 7 meltdown in three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. An estimated 15,867 people were killed, 6,109 were injured and over 2,909 went missing, according to the Japanese National Police Agency. It was one of the most expensive natural disasters in world history, costing an estimated $235 billion in repairs, according to the World Bank.

Natural disasters are getting more deadly and stronger due to changes in the earth’s climate. Half the world is in a drought brought on by climate change, according to NASA research. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in 2011 connecting the rise of natural disasters to global warming, declaring “a changing climate leads to changes in extreme weather and climate events.”

But despite the overwhelming evidence, many politicians and members of the Republican Party refuse to acknowledge the existence of global warming. They are wrong. It is not something you can believe in; it’s not a religion, it is scientific fact. Ignoring facts does not mean the situation will get better – it will get worse, even middle school kids know that. But not the some Republicans, it seems.

The Republican policy on global warming is a lot like its policy on other issues such as women’s health and only teaching abstinence in schools. Just pretending teenagers do not have sex does not mean they won’t, it only means they will most likely not do it safely.

“I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet; I’m in this race to help the American people,” Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a recent interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” While Romney lost the environmental vote, he missed the point envormentalists have been trying to make. The American people live off the ocean and the planet; without the planet we don’t exist.

“Mr. Romney says he wants to ‘help the American people.’ Yet he mocks concern over human-caused climate change, arguably the greatest threat humanity has ever face,” environmental scientist Michael Mann told The Huffington Post.

Global warming needs to be taken seriously. As natural disasters rise in destruction, more people are hurt and more lives are put at risk because governments will not take steps to stop the destruction of the ozone layer overprotect the environment. Government action will not solve all of the problems regarding natural disasters but it will keep them from getting worse and may repair damage to the fragile ecosystem.

The facts cannot be ignored. Steps need to be taken on an international, national and state level to stop the ozone layer depletion, fix existing climate change problems and keep more problems from forming. Natural disasters cannot be totally prevented but they can be helped from getting worse and ruining more lives.

Claire Anderson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]