As you are aware, September is hurricane season in the northern hemisphere. If you are a weatherphile, you’ve probably been following Hurricane Florence this past week as it wound its way west from the middle of the Atlantic towards the Carolinas, making landfall on Friday. Yes, it was extreme, with storm surges, uprooting trees and flash flooding, and about twelve unfortunate people who lost their lives in the storm. Amazingly, the Outer Banks islands of North Carolina were mostly spared, and the groups of wild horses who live on them (yes, there are still wild horses on the East Coast, incredibly), survived the storm and are doing fine, according to Facebook reports. This is good news, since all the major American news outlets reported for days on the possibly catastrophic damage that Florence could bring. It might have been much worse, so let’s count our blessings, right?
Southern Asia, on the other hand, has been hit hard by Typhoon Mangkhut this weekend. Here’s a link to a YouTube video with incredible raw footage of what’s been happening there (you might want to ignore the dramatic music, though). https://youtu.be/rTQjpnUxp_I
According to the BBC news, (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45543664) dozens of people in the Philippines have died as a result of the typhoon. In Hong Kong, the effects of the storm, flooding and storm surge damaged buildings and stopped normal movement in the city. Right now, the typhoon is moving across southern China, through the Guizhou, Chongquing and Yunnan provinces. Over 2.5 million people have been evacuated from Guangdong and Hainan Island this weekend. The news report stated that over 200 people were injured in Hong Kong, with wind speeds reaching over 110 mph, and storm surges as high as 12 feet (3.5 meters). Damage to high rise apartments included smashed glass windows, scaffolding crashing to the ground, metal plates careening through the sky, while on the ground cars and pedestrians were inundated by the flood waters. Many thousands were stranded as hundreds of flights were cancelled, roadways closed, and train service stopped. For the moment, the area has come to a standstill.
We can look at weather events such as these from various angles. One of the most obvious is that of scale. During the past decade, the frequency and magnitude of hurricanes and typhoons have scaled up. This type of upscaling of extreme weather has been predicted by meteorologists using cutting edge technology for the past several years. The science is solid: global warming is behind the increase of events, and their ever-increasing strength. Questions remain: how does the global community cope with nearly continuous extreme weather events, and what are we doing to mitigate their effects, and slow down the trajectory of tragedy in the decades ahead?
The Paris Climate Agreement was signed by world leaders almost three years ago. Since then, under the Trump administration, the United States reneged on their responsibility to keep their emissions under the 1.5 degree (Celsius) warming ceiling, and pulled out of the global agreement. However, state and city government leaders, along with the business community, made it clear immediately following the announcement from the White House, that they were fully still in the Paris agreement regardless of what the federal administration decided. Since that time, a coalition of mayors, governors, CEOs and community leaders from around the world have been working on innovating ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming.
This past week in San Francisco, hundreds of those leaders gathered for the Global Action Climate Summit, hosted by California Governor Jerry Brown and a large team of dedicated people. Thousands of people from across the globe attended the event, which was live-streamed for two days via YouTube and Facebook. Here are some links to find out about some of the outcomes of this extraordinary and important event.
In a high-level talanoa (dialogue) held at the start of the summit, the following statements were made by world leaders on climate change action:
Paris was a great moment of bold and focused leadership; an example of what is possible when leaders are committed to stepping up ambition. But now, to move the vision of the Paris Agreement forward, to turn its words into action, and to deliver results on the ground, the world now needs a new kind of leadership.
We are already seeing this leadership emerging. Those who think globally and for the long term. Those who are convinced and concerned about climate change. Those who put the interests of society in front of their own. Those who are courageous, determined, committed and perseverant. And, above all, those who realize that they need to work together in pursuit of a common goal.
But the fact remains, no single leader will be able to take on this challenge by themselves. To reach a net-zero emissions society, we must move beyond a single company, a single sector or city, or a single country. Leaders from across the world must, within their constituencies and jurisdictions, listen to what science is saying, and translate a global vision into local action. They must make bold decisions, provide the necessary resources and motivate and mobilize the people they can influence to follow-through and deliver. (https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/outcome-of-high-level-talanoa/)
The biggest call to action coming out of the summit was for 100% clean energy by all countries of the world, as soon as possible. This call is being emphasized and encouraged by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. The year 2020 came up over and over as a benchmark year: many believe that our world will reach an irreconcilable point with the effects of global warming, if we don’t make some major changes to our energy usage during the next two years. In other words, the time for real, on-the-ground action for clean energy is NOW.
Looking at the footage of Typhoon Mangkhut, (as well as extreme weather events happening every day across the globe) it is unimaginable that anyone living on Earth at this moment would not agree that humanity needs to step up and change the ways we are living. Fossil fuel use is simply killing life on Earth, it cannot be stated in any plainer terms. Positive change is on the horizon, and clever people all around the world are working tirelessly towards a clean energy future, not a moment too soon.