With thousands confirmed dead, and up to 10,000 feared dead after Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the islands of the Philippines, isn’t it time we paid attention to climate change?
Last week, one of the strongest typhoons to ever hit the Philippines has made a mockery of civilization. What used to be hundreds of inhabited tropical islands has been turned into a disaster area. A few thousand have been confirmed dead, but it is feared that the real number may be over 10,000. Part of the problem isn’t so much that Typhoon Haiyan was intense, but aggravated by rising sea levels.
Climate change, linked to increasing global temperatures, has been melting sea ice at the poles which, in turn, has been adding to rising sea levels. Since records started back in 1850, 2013 has ranked as the seventh-warmest year on record.
For those living in the mountains, this may not seem like such a big deal, but coastal areas, such as New York City and the Philippines, [basically all coastal], have suffered catastrophic damages from storms. While climate change hasn’t been inextricably linked to generating superstorms, it has been linked to rising sea levels. In the case of sea storms, typhoons and hurricanes, this increases the height of the storm surge. The storm surge isn’t quite as damaging as a tsunami, but it is a force to be reckoned with.
Thousands may already be dead in the Philippines, but the storm surge from Typhoon Haiyan wiped out practically everything. Homes are simply missing, capsized boats clog the harbors, low-lying airports [all of them] are jammed with debris, electricity is sketchy and potable water is almost nonexistent. Relief efforts have been hampered, as well, due to lacking these most basic infrastructure elements. The number of the dead will continue to rise.
We are helpless in the face of a monster of our own making. Still, deniers would have us believe that climate change is just a normal cycle. Unfortunately, the damage is already done. Will we be able to turn it around before all our coastal cities are rendered nothing more than a pile of flotsam, jetsam, and dead bodies?
Image © Bullit Marquez/AP