From space, the hurricanes sweeping across the Caribbean and into the underbelly of the United States look like monsters. Queued up one after the other on their destructive trajectories, they are a grim foretaste of the future if climate change is unchecked.
They are a wake-up call, in much the same way the aggressive actions of Hitler and Mussolini were in the 1930s. Fearful of taking action before things veered out of control, then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain will forever be remembered as the leader who dithered and appeased in the face of calamity.
One can’t help wondering if some of today’s leaders will be remembered in times to come as the appeasers who allowed through their inaction – and, in some cases, complete denial –climate change to wreak havoc on our world.
The science of hurricanes is pretty simple. A warm ocean heats the air above. The warm air rises, evaporates and starts to spin. As it rises the warm air cools and condenses, forming towering cumulonimbus clouds. Air pressure drops and the storm cell intensifies, with winds gaining strength as the cell marches westward across the Atlantic.
The warmer the ocean, the greater the frequency of hurricanes. Likewise, cyclones and intense low pressure cells in our hemisphere.
Climate scientists have long insisted one of the effects of global warming will be more intense weather events. Their predictions seem to be coming to pass and not just in the western hemisphere.
While the world’s focus has been on the Caribbean and the southern US, in South Asia millions of people have been displaced and thousands killed by stronger than normal monsoons. The catastrophe got barely any coverage.
Now the United States has been forced to pay attention to climate change, having ordered the largest evacuation in its history. This was just a few days after Houston, its fourth largest city, was inundated in the wake of an earlier hurricane.
Donald Trump ought to be wondering if his abandonment of the Paris Climate Accord will leave him on the wrong side of history. Likewise, Tony Abbott, who once infamously proclaimed climate change was “crap”.
We hope they’re paying attention now and have rethought their inaction and denial. I doubt they’d want to be remembered as Chamberlain has been.