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Fires, floods demand climate change action

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Climate change is real.

97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific essays conclude that the increase in the Earth’s mean temperature is due to human activity. The forecasted consequences are drastic, including sea level rise and widespread coastline transformation and increased drought. Yet the seriousness of the problem continues to be met with apathy from a disturbingly high percentage of the American population.

Some opinionists in the national media postulate that those who fail to support efforts combating climate change do so because it presents one of the worst types of problems humans have to face: an issue with relatively minor short-term effects, but disastrous long-term consequences.

That may be, but plenty of those relatively minor warning signs have already hit the planet with substantial force, and many of them are hitting quite close to home.

Fires have decimated forests and neighborhoods all over California this summer and fall, especially Northern California. Smoke from fires in the North Bay reached all the way down to the South Bay, including De Anza College, where athletic events were cancelled due to the degraded air quality. More importantly, several people in the North Bay lost their lives, and many, many more lost their homes. The expansion of California’s fire season into autumn means that more fires of this severity are near-guarantees to happen in the future, and the fire season will continue to grow as climate change leads to drier land outside of the rainy season.

During the first week of the fires, the smoke in San Francisco and Berkeley was simply unbelievable. It was particularly surreal to see the smoke around the Port of Oakland coming out of the BART Transbay Tube. You could barely see anything in the distance. Combined with the fading daylight, it looked like something out of a disaster video game.

Farther from home, rising ocean temperatures fueled Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, two of the worst hurricanes in US history. These too led to widespread devastation and many deaths.

Unprecedented heat waves are sweeping through California and other parts of the world, bringing still more deaths.

It may be that climate change is not a simple problem for humans to deal with. But the early warning signs are quite evident. We should do our part to heed them, and take aggressive action as a planet regarding climate change. If we don’t, disasters like these are going to become much more frequent than in the past, and those far-more-disastrous, ‘down-the-road’ consequences will come home to roost.

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