Edit desk: Harvey, Irma and climate change


Kayla Sippin

Power outages in dorms and dining halls. A tree falling into the UC, forcing it to close down. Multiple feet of water flooding Campus Square, making it impossible to get to the mail center.

This could be a reality if a Category 4 hurricane were to hit Lehigh. It’s time we talk about the effects of climate change and the recent extreme hurricanes.

It’s not a coincidence that climate change and hurricane seasons have become more extreme. The 2017 hurricane season has had temperatures of 0.5 degrees to 1 degree Celsius warmer than average. Scientists have discovered that 7 percent more water can be held in the air for every degree Celsius that the temperature rises.

This means that an increase in the planet’s temperature as a result of climate change will lead to more moisture being stored in the air and, in turn, worse storms. Climate change doesn’t cause hurricanes, but there is a direct correlation between the two.

If we don’t slow climate change, these storms could become much more catastrophic and affect vastly more lives — even our own at Lehigh.

Worse still, our president isn’t doing much to acknowledge what’s happening. Trump is denying the severity of the storms and isn’t considering that we could actually find a solution to the problem of climate change.

Others influential figures like Pastor Joel Osteen faced criticism for waiting days before opening his megachurch to people who needed it as a place to take refuge. Being selfish in a time like this doesn’t contribute to society in a helpful way, and those with resources should be supportive of those in need.

To give you a broader sense of what happened during Hurricane Harvey and Irma, here are some facts. Keep Lehigh in mind as you consider things getting worse in the future:

  • For the first time in 166 years, two Category 4 storms hit the U.S. in the same season.
  • Cost to the U.S: $290 billion.
  • Irma sustained 185 mph winds for 37 hours, the longest on record worldwide.
  • Approximately 100,000 homes were destroyed in Texas and Louisiana by Harvey.
  • Over 4 feet of water was dumped on Texas.

If we were to get a similar storm, South Mountain would likely to keep us safe from the effects of flooding. Our neighbors in the rest of Bethlehem, however, are at risk. I couldn’t stand to see people, especially those stricken with poverty, lose their homes and their lives.

More hurricanes in major cities, both in the U.S. and around the world, means more lives lost and more repairs needed. How long is it going take before everyone realizes that we need to do something about climate change?

Things seem desperate, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. There are a number of things we can, and need, to do.

First, petition congressmen. You might think this would have zero effect, but letting your congressmen know their constituents are concerned about a particular issue will make them more likely to take action. If congressmen create legislation to reduce carbon emissions or do anything to further regulate the way humans interact with the environment, they’re at least moving in the right direction.

Second, we can take small steps to be more environmentally conscious. Everyone seems to tell us to recycle or use less energy, and in the long run these little things really do help. One of the largest culprits is carbon emissions. Simply carpooling with someone, taking the bus or walking is more environmentally friendly than if everyone drives a car.

Third, be kind to one another. During times like these, people need to be selfless and open their arms to others who need help. Donate money. Check in on a neighbor. Volunteer. We need to work together if we want to deal with climate change and create a better future.

Even if you don’t believe in the science behind climate change, you’re not doing any harm by being conscious of your actions and trying to live sustainably. Don’t be the cause, be the solution.

Don’t let the reality of Harvey or Irma affect your community next.

Kayla Sippin, ’20, is an assistant news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    Climate change has been a natural occurance during earth’s history. Humans have an effect on climate change but will be better served by understanding the science behind the changes and reacting to the changes. Yes, reduced emissions and reforestation will help but sea levels may still rise. It might be smarter to not build significantly on flood plains or coastal plains. In the short length of geological time our country has existed, being a city on a river or the coast has been beneficial. The cost of enjoying such benefits has been rising.

    Bethlehem has benefitted from global warming and human changes. In the past 50 years, at the cost of many jobs, the demise of Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley has produced cleaner air and probably more sunny days. Lehigh-Lafayette football games are now played in relative warmth. Snow fences are not seen because they are not needed.

    The root of the problem is probably the attitude of selfishness. There isn’t any benefit for “me” to make changes “now” for future benefits for “others”. I don’t really believe that deniers are stupid, I do believe that lying has its advantages for them. Is there a marketing genius who has a possible solutiion?

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