What Today's Headline Should Be

Fueled by Global Warming, Hurricane Florence Menaces the Carolinas

As expected, the first Atlantic hurricane of the season is a whopper. Coastal communities in North and South Carolina face the prospect of severe damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure, especially to the electric power grid. Inland agriculture, much of it given over to concentrated animal feeding operations (factory farms), may also be damaged, and neighboring communities along with them. The state has nearly 7,000 hog and chicken farms, the greatest share of them just north of Wilmington, near where the hurricane is expected to make landfall.  Animal excrement ponds are likely be overwhelmed by the volume of rainfall and spread waste across a wide area.

Six years ago, Republican legislators in North Carolina passed a law, barring state officials from using climate change forecasts for any coastal or other development decisions. The action was taken despite research indicating that sea level rise was speeding up in the Southest U.S.  Indeed, climate scientists have for years warned the public and politicians that rising seas, increased ocean temperatures, and changes to higher atmospheric humidity are a recipe for larger, stronger and wetter hurricanes. 

In addition, decreased atmospheric steering winds, the result of higher temperatures at the poles, means that hurricanes and other big storms linger longer over given areas, dropping more rain.  Last year’s deluge of 60 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey (recorded near Port Arthur, Texas) was a clear example of the phenomenon. It may have been the single greatest rain event in human history. But, scientists warn, it’s a phenomenon likely to be repeated.

With luck, Hurricane Florence may weaken or its rains turn out to be less than anticipated. But depending upon luck to save coastal and nearby inland regions from disaster is not sound public policy. What is needed instead is disaster mitigation, including the restoration of coastal wetlands, and concerted action to stop the further release of global warming gasses, chiefly CO2 and Methane. Without those steps, we face a century of Florences and worse.

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Anthropocene Alliance helps communities harmed by climate change and environmental abuse. We do it by helping grass roots, flood survivor groups get better organized and heard. We also do it by encouraging vegan groups to become more vocal and activist. Animal agriculture is one of the leading emitters of global greenhouse gases, and a source of immense suffering for billions of animals.