Following the devastating impact wildfires had on California last week, with fires having burnt nearly one million acres of land, as well as the battering Louisiana took from Hurricane Laura, many are accrediting these events to global warming caused by human activity. However, are these claims true? And could these events just be apart of the earth’s natural circadian rhythm?
To investigate such a question, we have to better understand what the earth’s natural processes look like. Looking at the history of the Earth, events such as hurricanes or wildfires have been common.
According to the National Hurricane Center, deadly hurricanes occurred as early as 1919: the Atlantic-Gulf Hurricane damaged areas of Florida and Texas and killed 600-900 people.
Wildfires have also been a norm in environmental history, with the earliest known wildfire being the 1825 Miramichi fire that burned 3 million acres of land and killed 160.
While there were 7 hurricanes from 1900-1950s, there were a whopping 17 hurricanes from 1950’s-2000
These reports would suggest, therefore, that environmental disasters are just the way the world works, and that we should not be looking to change something that we have no control over. Right?
Because while hurricanes, floods and wildfires are apart of the earth’s natural processes, the frequency at which these events are occurring is influenced by global warming, which is caused by human energy consumption.
Looking at the evidence by the National Hurricane Centre, hurricanes may have been noted as early as 1919, but hurricanes occurred frequently from the 1950’s onwards. While there were 7 hurricanes from 1900-1950s, there were a whopping 17 hurricanes from 1950’s-2000.
Reasons for this increase may be accredited to the fact that fossil fuels, such as petroleum, began to be used exponentially, more than any other energy source in America. In 1925, 4.3 quadrillion thermal units of petroleum fuel were being used in America. This number rose to 32.7 quadrillion thermal units by 1975.
In July 2010, heavy rains in India’s Kerala and Assam killed an estimated 50 people. This number rose substantially to 324 in 2018 in the same area
As a result, global temperatures increased during this period, which is possibly why hurricanes were so common in the post-war era.
Human energy consumption is not only causing natural disasters to occur more frequently, it is worsening the impact of these disasters as well.
A study published by Nature Communications found that violent monsoons in central India have tripled since the 1950s, from there being 2 cases of widespread extreme rain events in 1950 to 6 cases in 2010.
Looking at our recent history, we find that this is the case: in July 2010, heavy rains in India’s Kerala and Assam killed an estimated 50 people. This number rose substantially to 324 in 2018 in the same area.
The reason for these worsening monsoons is global warming. Nature Communications found that warming ocean temperatures in the Arabian Sea drove surges of moisture supply, resulting in extreme rainfall episodes across India.
It becomes apparent, therefore, that human activity does play a crucial part in these natural disasters, both in terms of frequency and intensity
The ocean is heated because the Earth’s ozone layer has significantly warmed up from the carbon emissions (caused by fossil fuel consumption) that are trapped in the layer. This points to human activity as the cause of worsening natural disasters.
It becomes apparent, therefore, that human activity does play a crucial part in these natural disasters, both in terms of frequency and intensity. The evidence points to energy consumption being a key contributor to the warming of the planet.
While this may seem depressing at first (for many of us rely on fuel and gas to live), the fact that we know what the problem is means that we can start to take steps to reduce the carbon emissions we put out into the environment.
We can start lobbying governments and corporations to make renewable energy accessible, or make aspects of our life more sustainable, for example reducing our plastic usage or choosing walking over driving.
In doing so, we can help reduce the frequency at which natural disasters happen and spare the innocent lives lost to these events.
For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.