Is it possible that climate change contributed to this devastating storm?
As thousands of communities – and up to 85 million residents along the East coast – continue the long process of recovery from Winter Storm Jonas, many Americans are starting to notice a trend. A lot of folks are asking: “Is it just me… or do these storms seem to be getting worse? I wonder if climate change has anything to do with this.” And the answer is: absolutely.
It seems almost counter-intuitive that “global warming” would have something to do with massive winter storm systems. Yet a recent article by Slate explained how climate change is doing exactly that. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus notes: “Winters are getting warmer pretty much everywhere, but at the same time, seven of the 10 heaviest snowstorms in New York City’s weather history… have now come within the past 20 years. A similar trend holds for D.C. and Baltimore. Something is clearly different recently.”
Holthaus explains that there has been “a big boost from a very strong El Niño,” and that “there is clear evidence that global warming is boosting the odds of recent big Northeast snowstorms. Among the clearest is Physics 101: a warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture, and thus can produce heavier precipitation (whether rain or snow) in a shorter amount of time.” This is the exact phenomenon that millions of Americans witnessed over the weekend: 2 to 3 feet of snow, which came down at staggering rates – 2 inches or more per hour in some areas.
Holthaus also notes: “In Delaware and southern New Jersey, coastal flooding set all-time records, eclipsing even Hurricane Sandy… This weekend’s record water levels would not have been so bad without the melting of glaciers and ice sheets that global warming has already caused.” So the record-breaking weather Jonas displayed – huge snow totals and massive flooding – was only made worse by climate change.
But just how enormous is the economic impact of such a storm? The Atlantic attempted to answer that important question with an article titled: “How Much Did Snowstorm Jonas Cost the Economy?” The author explains: “First, the price to clean up a city is steep: In New York… it’s estimated to cost $1.8 million per inch. Second, winter storms tend to give rise to insurance claims… And third, a number of stores and businesses close because it’s unsafe for workers to commute or their customers are cooped up at home.” In Washington, DC, the federal government was completely shut down after 12pm on Friday, January 22nd – and it did not resume normal operations until Wednesday, January 27th. Most state and local government offices – as well as school districts from Washington all the way to Manhattan – were also closed for days.
“Chris Christopher, a macroeconomist… estimated that Jonas’ economic impact would be… between $500 million and $1 billion.”
NPG has long drawn the connection between population growth and climate change. Even if per capita emission rates stay the same – by reducing our population size, we hold the potential to dramatically reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions (which scientists agree contribute greatly to global warming). And as author Mike Hanauer astutely noted in NPG’s Forum paper Overpopulation and Overconsumption: Where Should We Focus?: “Attainable reductions in consumption will not do the job if we do not also stop population growth.”
We will continue our work to raise public awareness of the link between population growth and climate change – which is all the more important after the devastating impact of storms like Jonas. With such enormous financial, environmental, and human costs (the storm has claimed at least 48 lives), we must ACT NOW to slow, halt, and eventually reverse U.S. population growth!
Thank you again for your continued support of NPG!
World population, now over 7.3 billion, is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, an increase of almost two billion, or 23%, in the short space of only 34 years from now.In the highly unlikely event that per capita greenhouse gas emissions could possibly be decreased by an equal percentage in such a short space of time (a blink of an eye) the total amount of worldwide emission would remain the same!
From this simple illustration it would appear that without drastically reducing the size of world population, there is no solution to the problem.None at all.So then why do our world leaders pretend that there is one?What is to be gained by pretending rather than by proposing a solution that would solve the problem – a reduction in the size of world population to not more than 1- 2 billion?
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