Global leaders have been stressing to their citizens for years to begin preparing for a climate crisis when, in actuality, we’re already in one.
With wildfires in California, destructive hurricanes in the south and massive flooding in China, 2020 has proven to not only be the “Year of the Pandemic”, but to also be the peak of the ultimate climate crisis. However, it’s almost as if everyone has forgotten, amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, the one thing that could destroy the Earth as we know it: our own stupidity.
Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute, recently tweeted about this issue through the California wildfires.
“One telling aspect of California wildfires is that the number of fires has actually declined while average area burned has increased more than three-fold,” Hausfather said. “Its changing conditions – dryer fuels from a changing climate, greater fuel loading from fire suppression – that are to blame.”
While our planet is literally on fire, we’re still continuously burning fossil fuels and taking part in deforestation, completely ignoring the fact that certain areas of the Earth will be uninhabitable by the end of the century. There is also the matter of more powerful hurricanes. A study published by an economics professor at Oregon State University declared that storm-related deaths increased under most climate change scenarios by 52%. While we should still be preparing for the massive hurricanes headed towards the south, we must also understand they might be a direct result of global warming and addressing it accordingly.
However, like with our fossil fuel usage, we fail to understand that the climate crisis isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s also a health issue.
Between droughts and increased exposure to the sun, climate change has a negative effect on the population as a whole. As warmer seasons lengthen, many insects also are likely to travel farther, carrying deadly diseases as they expand their range. While health departments are all seemingly focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, they also must prepare for the related health issues that go hand-in-hand with the climate crisis.
While many problems regarding health, such as heat stress, air quality or even access to clean water are obvious, mental health is also an important issue in regards to climate change. In regards to the current hurricane forming — at writing, Hurricane Laura — many extreme weather events affect those who witness it, which can manifest as anger at displacement, grief over loss of loved ones or even trigger later episodes of PTSD. The mental health of the Americans involved in these storms should be a top priority for government and health officials.
While climate protection within the United States dates back to the first Earth Day in 1970, this country still has a lot of change to go and not a whole lot of time to do it. By disregarding recent environmental data, dismantling the Clean Power Plan and loosening emission standards, the current administration should start rethinking the importance of climate change, especially with the way 2020 is going.
If we’re being honest, there’s no way to fully judge if any other administration would have handled the climate crisis perfectly, but anything is better than the current policy of nothing at all. As far as the future goes (and by future, I mean the upcoming election,) you can either have a habitable planet or our current leadership. In other words, you can’t have both.
The world at large needs to accept that we’re in a climate crisis and do something about it now rather than wait until it’s too late.