Photo: Global Warming Flooding
It is hard to turn on the television or go online and not see the horrific videos and photos of Sri Lanka, Australian, and Brazil’s battle with natural disasters. Scientists are saying these events prove what they’ve been trying to warn us about for years. Global warming is not just a theory. It’s real. It’s happening, and we did it to ourselves.
In Brazil, it is being estimated that around 500 people have been either killed or are missing as raging flood waters and mudslides sweep away homes. Officials in Sri Lanka say over one million people have been affected by the floods there, and have had to deal with overflowing sewage lines and holding tanks. So far, 23 people have been reported dead, and a spokesperson for the health ministry in Sri Lanka says they are very concerned about typhoid and other waterborne diseases at this point. And flood waters in Queensland, Australia, have completely destroyed an area reportedly the size of Germany and France put together.
Climate scientist at the University of California at San Diego and author of “The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change” Richard Sommerville, says the extreme weather we’ve all been seeing is not random.
“The world is warming up ... It’s warming for sure and science is very confident that most of the warming is due to human causes.”
So while we call these events “natural disasters” scientists like Sommerville say there’s nothing natural about them.
Coal, oil, and natural gas all send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when we burn them, and scientists say that this extreme weather is a direct result of those emissions.
From 2000 to 2010, we had nine of the ten highest temperatures on record. The added heat resulted in more moisture in the air, and when all that moisture is released, it can cause massive and devastating flooding in the summer months, and icy winters.
“Because the whole water cycle speeds up in a warming world, there’s more water in the atmosphere today than there was a few years ago on average, and you’re seeing a lot of that in the heavy rains and floods for example in Australia,” Sommervile said.
Even locally, here in the U.S., we’re seeing the effects of global warming. With snow falling on 49 of the 50 states this week, Sommerville says, “This is no longer something that’s theory of conjecture or something that comes out of computer models. We’re observing the climate changing. It’s happening, it’s real, it’s a fact.”