With the onset of hurricane season, we are reminded of the need to not only prepare for the next potential storm but also for the climatic changes that continue to intensify the threats facing our waterways and our communities.
The time is now to have your hurricane supply kit in place, but we also need to ensure that our city and state leaders are taking aggressive steps to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to the impacts of a warming planet. This includes investing in green infrastructure, implementing resilience policies, replacing coal electric generation with renewable energy, and protecting the forests, wetlands and saltmarshes that sequester carbon and protect our communities from flooding and storm surge.
Unfortunately, we are already experiencing the effects of climate change, and projections of future conditions are dire, especially if we do not take actions now to dramatically reduce emissions. Adapting to the impacts of climate change will only become more challenging and more expensive the longer we wait.
In a warmer world, evaporation from the land and oceans adds more moisture to the air and warmer temperatures allow the air to hold more water vapor. This increased moisture leads to more intense rainfall, especially during extreme events. Warmer water temperatures and more moisture in the air can also fuel more intense hurricanes.
As a result, we will likely experience more frequent flooding and an increase in stormwater runoff, flushing more pollution and sewage into our waterways. Just look at what happened recently in Miami, where a tropical disturbance produced nearly a foot of rain, resulting in numerous sewage overflows that prompted local officials to issue no-swim advisories.
More pollution and warmer waters will also lead to more frequent algae blooms and more fish kills.
In addition, rising sea levels are making storm surge events worse, causing more septic tanks to fail, pushing saltwater further upstream, and threatening our aquifer with saltwater intrusion.
While the challenges posed by climate change are daunting, know that you can make a difference. We must prepare for the next major storm, but we must also make sure our elected leaders know that hurricane supply kits and evacuation plans are not enough.
Urge your representatives to protect our families and our river by enacting policies and investing in strategies that will address the root causes of climate change and create more resilient communities.