As the world grapples with the alarming effects of global warming, there is a growing concern over the intensification of hurricanes and the subsequent impact on vulnerable regions.
In the United States of America, hurricane-prone states such as Florida, Texas, and North Carolina, as well as, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean are facing increased risks and challenges.
Thus, there is an urgent need for government policies and individual actions to address these issues; it has never been more critical to act.
Global Warming and Intensifying Hurricanes – United States
Hurricanes are formed when warm moist air over water begins to rise. Thus, rising sea surface temperatures, which result from global warming, provide fuel for hurricanes to strengthen and grow in size.
Furthermore, the warming atmosphere also increases the potential for heavy rainfall, storm surge, and destructive winds during hurricanes.
Consequently, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin.
A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the average intensity of Atlantic hurricanes has increased by about 1% per decade since 1970. This means that hurricanes are now about 5% stronger than they were 50 years ago.
Furthermore, the cost of hurricane damage in the United States has increased by about 10% per year since 1980. Estimates in 2021 pegged the cost of hurricane damage in the United States at $145 billion.
Dr. Maria Rodriguez, a climate scientist, emphasizes the urgency of addressing this issue: “The evidence is clear – global warming is amplifying the destructive power of hurricanes. Without swift action, coastal communities in hurricane-prone states will continue to face heightened risks and bear the brunt of these increasingly intense storms.”
Global Warming and Intensifying Hurricanes – Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
However, it is not only U.S. states that are vulnerable. Caribbean nations like Dominica, Barbuda, and Saint Lucia face a dual challenge: vulnerability to severe hurricanes and limited resources for recovery.
In recent years, the Caribbean region has experienced the devastating effects of hurricanes, causing substantial economic losses and displacing communities.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that between 2017 and 2019, hurricanes cost the Caribbean region over $6 billion annually, equivalent to 2.8% of its GDP. The long-term implications for these small economies are dire, as they struggle to rebuild and adapt to the escalating threat.
Government Policies to Curb Hurricanes in the Era of Global Warming
Amid rising hurricane intensity and frequency due to global warming, governments are vital in implementing policies to mitigate devastating impacts.
Dr. James Thompson, an environmental policy expert, highlights the importance of governmental action: “Governments need to prioritize climate change adaptation and invest in infrastructure that can withstand the intensifying hurricanes. This includes implementing stringent building codes, enhancing early warning systems, and fostering community resilience.”
Some bold and proactive government measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change are:
Investing in Climate-Resilient Infrastructure
Resilient infrastructure withstands natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, enduring extreme weather with flexible materials like concrete or steel.
By using these methods, resilient infrastructure can help to protect people and property from the impacts of natural disasters. It can also help to keep businesses running and essential services operating during and after a disaster.
Thus, governments should prioritize investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, particularly in coastal regions prone to hurricanes.
For example, in New Orleans local government invested in man-made fortified levees and floodgates to create embankments to prevent flooding.
A study for ABC News in 2021 highlighted how this $14 billion system helped protect the city from flooding during Hurricane Ida.
Also, municipalities can subsidize resilient homes and enforce updated building codes to withstand hurricane-force winds and climate-related hazards.
For instance, a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that flood-resistant buildings made from materials such as concrete or steel were less likely to suffer structural damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Implementing these strategies ensures safer homes in coastal communities, protecting lives and minimizing property damage from climate-related hazards.
Adopting Climate Mitigation Strategies:
A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2020 found that the intensity of hurricanes is directly correlated with the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The study found that for every 1 degree Celsius increase in global temperature, the intensity of hurricanes could increase by 10%.
“We need to invest in climate mitigation strategies, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is also the smart thing to do. The cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action.” – Al Gore, Former Vice President of the United States.
Climate mitigation strategies the government can adopt to reduce the effect of greenhouse gas emissions are:
- Set emissions targets and regulations. Governments can set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and then create regulations to help achieve those targets. For example, the United States government has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030. To help achieve this target, the government has created regulations that require power plants to switch to cleaner fuels and require cars to be more fuel-efficient.
- Investing in renewable energy. Governments can invest in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy sources do not produce greenhouse gasses, so they can help to lower the overall level of emissions. For example, Barbados has set a target of 100% renewable energy by 2030, and to achieve this goal, over 30% of its electricity is from renewable resources of energy efficient sources like LED lighting.
- Changing consumer behavior. Governments can also play a role in changing consumer behavior to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, governments educate the public on environmental impacts and enable policies that promote sustainable consumer choices.
International Cooperation and Assistance
Governments should collaborate at regional and international levels to address the challenges posed by hurricanes and global warming.
Climate change is a global problem. It is not something that can be solved by one country or region alone. Hurricanes are a global phenomenon. They can occur anywhere in the world and can affect people from all countries.
“We cannot address climate change and hurricanes without international cooperation. We need to build trust and understanding between countries, and we need to work together to find solutions that will benefit everyone.” – Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist for the Nature Conservancy.
International cooperation and assistance are needed to build trust and cooperation which are essential for finding solutions to these problems.
- Sharing knowledge, experiences and best practices. Countries can share data and information about hurricanes, climate change, and other related topics to help formulate effective policies and strategies and improve their understanding of hurricanes and develop better ways to predict and respond to them.
- Working together to develop new technologies. Countries can work together to develop new technologies to help predict hurricanes, track their movements, and protect people and property from their effects.
- Providing financial assistance. Countries can provide financial assistance to countries that are affected by hurricanes or struggling to mitigate climate change. This can help to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to address these problems.
The Role of Individuals in Combating Global Warming and Hurricane Intensification
However, individual actions also play a crucial role in combating the effects of global warming.
“The choices we make today will determine the future of our planet. We all have a responsibility to act on climate change, and we can all make a difference.” – Greta Thunberg, climate activist.
Adopting sustainable practices
To help combat global warming and hurricane intensification individuals can reduce their carbon footprint by making changes to their lifestyles. These simple but sustainable practices can collectively make a significant impact.
Actions that can be taken include:
- Drive less. If you can, walk, bike, or take public transportation instead of driving.
- Use less energy. Turn off lights when you leave a room, unplug electronics when they’re not in use, and weatherize your home.
- Eat less meat. The production of meat is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Recycle and compost. This helps to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, where it releases methane, a greenhouse gas.
Support businesses and organizations that are working to combat climate change.
Furthermore, individuals can support organizations and initiatives dedicated to climate action and advocating for policies that address global warming.
- Buy products from sustainable companies. There are many companies that are committed to sustainability. By buying their products, you can support their efforts to reduce their environmental impact.
- Donate to environmental organizations. There are many organizations that are working to combat climate change. By donating to these organizations, you can help them to continue their important work.
- Volunteer your time. There are many ways to volunteer your time to help combat climate change. Get involved by volunteering with an environmental organization or educating your community to make a difference.
Call To Action
As global warming continues to accelerate and hurricanes grow increasingly intense, the need for immediate action cannot be overstated. Strong government policies and individual sustainability efforts protect hurricane-prone areas and developing nations from climate change’s devastating impacts.
Time is of the essence, and the responsibility rests on all of our shoulders to secure a sustainable future for generations to come.