Climate change, also known as global warming, has been causing alarming events the world over, such as rising sea levels and destructive typhoons and hurricanes. Climate-related extreme weather events are on the rise. In the Philippines, for example, we have seen the catastrophic effects of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), described as one of the most intense tropical cyclones. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing more than 6,000 people.
Just recently, Americans came face to face with the dangers posed by climate change. A Bloomberg View article cited Hurricane Harvey as an example. Harvey was so destructive because it got slowed down over Houston. The storm was caught between two high-pressure blocking systems shortly after it made landfall in Texas. So, instead of rolling over the region, it got stuck for several days, dumping a year’s worth of rainfall in less than a week.
Dr. Richard Allan, professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, said the recent hurricanes that hit the US were made worse by climate change. In a news story published by The Telegraph, Allan said hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, require a set of atmospheric ingredients to form. Warm upper ocean water provides the most vital hurricane fodder—energy and water. But changes in wind and moisture with altitude are also key and the rotation of the Earth increasingly spins these storms up as they travel away from the equator. Especially strong seasonal warming this year combined with the other factors partly relating to natural ocean fluctuations have made conditions ripe for tropical cyclones to form in the Atlantic.
Allan said: “While weather explains the formation and track of these tropical beasts, additional heating due to emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities will inevitably make them more deadly. Extra energy from warmer waters increases the intensity of the winds in the strongest cyclones while a warmer atmosphere is able to suck in greater quantities of moisture, which is dumped as more intense rainfall.”
There’s an ongoing debate among scientists about the effects of humans on global climate and about what policies should be implemented to avoid possible undesirable effects of climate change. Mainstream scientific organizations worldwide concur with the assessment that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse-gas concentrations. However, there is also a small but vocal number of scientists in climate-related fields that disagree with such view.
As climate experts continue their discourse, however, serious damage may result at some future date if steps are not taken to halt the trend of extreme weather events.
What can we do to stop or slow down global warming?
At times, when a problem is global in scale, it’s hard to believe that individual actions can make a difference. But even small acts can have big results. And since so many things affect our climate, there are things we can do to make a difference. We can start by using public transportation more often; by making our homes more energy efficient just by adding insulation or changing our light bulbs to LEDs; by helping promote renewable energy; by planting trees; and by putting the three Rs of sustainability into practice: Reduce, reuse and recycle. These are simple things we can do that can impact the big picture of climate change in the long run.