hurricane florence north carolina Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Hurricanes at the Ballot Box

The storm that smashed into the southeastern United States last week was another reminder that the window to counter the effects of climate change is closing. With extreme weather becoming more frequent, it is time for voters in the US and beyond to hold leaders accountable for their failure to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

SINGAPORE – Hurricane Florence, which smashed into the southeastern United States last week, is the latest in a string of extreme weather events that has raised expectations for disaster preparedness. With big storms occurring more frequently, authorities worldwide are responding with upgraded early-warning systems, better evacuation plans, and more aggressive sheltering strategies.

But the day is fast approaching when fires, droughts, and storms exacerbated by global warming will dwarf our ability to respond. The case for reducing carbon dioxide emissions – and slowing the rate of anthropogenic warming – grows stronger with every new catastrophe. The solution is clear: we must elect leaders who will take climate change seriously. In the US, the next opportunity to do that will be the midterm congressional elections in November.

Three decades have passed since former NASA scientist James Hansen first warned “with a high degree of confidence” that human activity was making the planet hotter. And yet, because too few people heeded his warnings then, everyone is paying a price now. In the first nine months of 2018, the world has experienced a lifetime’s worth of “historic” weather events – from drought-fueled forest fires in the American West, Greece, and Sweden, to floods in Hawaii, southern India, and elsewhere in South Asia. As Florence was tearing through the Carolinas, Typhoon Mangkhut was swamping the Philippines and southern China.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading and receive unfettered access to all content, subscribe now.



Unlock additional commentaries for FREE by registering.