By Sabrina Hu and Charlotte Stuart-Tilley, The CLEO Institute
A global pandemic shutting down the world, protests erupting at every corner, and a climate crisis holding that threatens our existence. How much more can we take?
This summer could be one of the worst hurricane seasons to date, with NOAA predicting three to six major hurricanes. Climate change adds fuel to hurricanes.
This isn’t speculation—the science is clear: warmer waters and rising sea levels create excellent conditions for a powerful hurricane with destructive forces of wind and water. Global warming is making extreme weather events worse.
These stronger hurricanes are going to harm citizens now more than ever because they’re coupled with the pandemic. As the climate crisis worsens our hurricane season, how will COVID-19 affect our disaster relief efforts?
Since the start of hurricane season on June 1, residents have begun to consider their annual hurricane preparations. Maybe you have a plan: an emergency evacuation kit, a full gas tank, and a safe place to go.
You’d be one of the lucky ones. Hundreds of thousands of people will crowd into a hurricane shelter, which leads to not only limited resources but also a breeding ground for COVID-19.
Sanitation precautions will need to be taken on a mass scale. Social distancing has proven difficult to maintain in public spaces such as grocery stores and hospitals, but what about evacuation shelters or post-storm clean up?
Additionally, hurricane and pandemic dangers disproportionately affect low-income families and people of color. COVID-19, hurricanes and other extreme weather events magnify the social inequalities and injustices that plague our nation.
It’s been said that disasters don’t discriminate. A virus wouldn’t hesitate to infect you based on your race and a hurricane will wreak havoc regardless of your background. However, your circumstances do determine how much you can recover and your chances of getting infected in the first place.
If you can afford face masks, your chances of getting and transmitting the coronavirus drastically decrease. If you have money, repairing damage is much more feasible than someone in a low-income situation.
Climate change, the source of these problems, needs to be addressed. More specifically: fossil fuels. The science is clear: there is a 97% scientific consensus on man-made climate disruption. We cannot let the power and influence of fossil fuel corporations impair our judgments—or our politicians’ judgments—any longer.
We need to take action now for future generations. Throughout the pandemic, nature has temporarily restored itself in some places, but communities will return to normal soon.
However, the pandemic has taught us that we can take immediate action against a threat, even when that means changing our day-to-day lives to ensure our communities are safe. This means switching to renewable clean energy and reducing our waste and consumption, among other actions.
It also means voting out climate or science-denying officials, talking with your local representatives, pushing critical climate policy, speaking out against fossil fuels, joining climate protests, and supporting a Climate Emergency Declaration for your city.
Without the necessary climate policy, Florida will be more susceptible to flooding and storm surge, endangering thousands, if not millions, of lives and destroying the vital tourism industry Florida relies on. We need to minimize the effects of the changing climate long term—including hurricanes. You have the power to make a difference, but it depends on you to execute that power.
Sabrina Hu is a senior at James Rickards High School in Tallahassee. She serves as the GenCLEO Tallahassee leader with The CLEO Institute. Charlotte Stuart-Tilley is a homeschooled high school sophomore. She has led and organized school strikes for the climate, and now serves as a GenCLEO Tallahassee leader with The CLEO Institute.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.