US green ex­pert bats for global bid to ad­dress cli­mate change con­cerns

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Gao Lu The author is a writer with the Xin­hua News Agency. The ar­ti­cle first ap­peared in Xin­hua. opin­ion@glob­al­

Global ef­fort is needed to un­der­stand and ad­dress cli­mate change as ex­treme weather has al­ready af­fected peo­ple’s lives with more sever­ity than we ever an­tic­i­pated, a US en­vi­ron­ment ex­pert told Xin­hua re­cently.

Jim Black­burn, co-di­rec­tor of Se­vere Storm Pre­dic­tion, Ed­u­ca­tion and Evac­u­a­tion Cen­ter from Dis­as­ters in Rice Univer­sity, said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Xin­hua that there is an “ab­so­lute causal link” be­tween se­vere storms and cli­mate change.

The US re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced two ma­jor hur­ri­canes, Har­vey and Irma, which caused the death of dozens of peo­ple and the to­tal loss of more than $200 bil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to Black­burn, Hur­ri­cane Har­vey went from a trop­i­cal cy­clone overnight al­most to a Cat­e­gory 4 storm be­cause of the heat of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the hottest water bod­ies in the world.

Re­search shows the tem­per­a­ture in the Gulf was about 3 to 7 de­grees Fahren­heit hot­ter in re­cent years than on av­er­age what it used to be.

Hur­ri­canes and trop­i­cal storms like Har­vey or Irma were fed by the tremen­dous heat of the oceans be­fore they made land­falls that brought gust of wind and tor­ren­tial rains.

“Our storms are get­ting fed more heat and it’s gonna be stronger storms be­cause of that. If you look at the pat­tern of cli­mate change and if you look at the cli­mate science, these sci­en­tists are all telling us se­vere storms will be worse be­cause of cli­mate change,” said Black­burn.

He ad­mit­ted there is a sci­en­tific con­sen­sus that trop­i­cal storms are get­ting more and more se­ri­ous although it is hard to say that any one storm was cli­mate-re­lated.

“We’re get­ting three 500year storms in the past three years. That’s just not sup­posed to hap­pen. But it is. That’s cli- mate change.”

What con­cerned Black­burn most is that all of the plan­ning in the US is based upon “ob­so­lete rain­fall num­bers.”

“The statis­tics have lost their mean­ing,” he said, adding that “all of our en­gi­neer­ing plans, all of our in­fra­struc­ture, all of our dams, they’re ob­so­lete in terms of the amount of rain­fall we’re see­ing now.”

Since author­i­ties, sci­en­tists and or­di­nary cit­i­zens all un­der­es­ti­mated the rain­fall storm Har­vey brought to the Hous­ton area, Black­burn be­lieved that what num­bers to use for plan­ning for rain­fall in the fu­ture is go­ing to be one of the crit­i­cal de­bates for Hous­ton.

In or­der to be pre­pared be­fore ex­treme weather comes, Black­burn sug­gested that govern­ments and peo­ple should first un­der­stand cli­mate change and adapt to it.

“We’re go­ing to see some very se­ri­ous im­pacts. The United States just suf­fered two of them, Har­vey and Irma. The sooner we come to un­der­stand it and start do­ing some­thing about it, the bet­ter,” he said.

But Black­burn ad­mit­ted that cli­mate change is al­most a taboo in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety, es­pe­cially in Hous­ton where oil and gas in­dus­tries are flour­ish­ing.

“A lot of peo­ple in our part of the world don’t like to talk about cli­mate change be­cause most of our in­come is from oil and gas. The feel­ing is if we talk about cli­mate change it’s gonna be bad for oil and gas.”

Black­burn is pub­licly against this be­hav­ior, say­ing there are things that we can do that would be very proac­tive for the oil and gas in­dus­try in cli­mate change. “We’ve got to start talk­ing hon­estly about these storms and about these is­sues, and it’s a huge im­por­tant is­sue,” he em­pha­sized.

Since cli­mate change af­fects us all glob­ally, Black­burn is in fa­vor of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in un­der­stand­ing and deal­ing with it.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared the with­drawal from the Paris Agree­ment on Cli­mate Change in June, a step Black­burn saw as “the big ob­struc­tion” to deal with cli­mate change with a joint ef­fort.

“It’s go­ing to be true of ev­ery place in the world, and we’ve got to share ex­pe­ri­ences. We’ve got to work to­gether to­ward the com­mon goal of try­ing to un­der­stand cli­mate and ad­dress­ing it.”

He be­lieved China and the US could learn from each other in deal­ing with the cli­mate is­sue. “I think there’s an op­por­tu­nity here for a level of global co­op­er­a­tion, and China would cer­tainly be a key player in that,” he said, adding that Chi­nese en­gi­neer­ing and the ca­pac­ity for quick re­sponse set ex­am­ples for other coun­tries in the world.

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