Yan Chen is a second-year Ph.D. student in geography at the University of Connecticut.
Last weekend, heavy rains pounded California, even though the state is experiencing a 100-year drought. The longer dry season and the shorter, intense wet season are results of global warming. These extreme weather events in the United States seem to be another “epidemic.”
Global pandemic is defined as the spread of a new disease on a global scale. In the United States, global warming is a “disease,” one of its “symptoms” is extreme weather and its results threaten human lives. However, most people don’t care about extreme weather if the results of droughts and wildfires are not directly related to their own lives. But everyone should recognize that as extreme weather continues to occur more frequently due to global warming, we will all have nowhere to escape.
If you are a climatologist or a scholar in a related field, you get it. All challenges to the ecosystem are challenges to human life. Whether you live in a city, a rural town, or somewhere in between, you are part of the ecosystem. I study the impacts of drought and wildfires on forests, and I interviewed Californians about the impact of extreme weather on their lives. Most people simply did not pay enough attention to the terrible consequences of severe weather. A 35-year-old Los Angeles resident said, “A drought is happening here, but it has not affected my life. I am not worried because everyone is suffering from drought and not just me.”
Contrast this with President Joe Biden, who said, “These extreme storms, and the climate crisis, are here. We must be better prepared. We need to act.” However, the Climate Action Tracker rates U.S. climate policies and action as “insufficient”. The “insufficient” rating indicates the U.S.’ climate policies and action before 2030 require substantial improvements to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. The epidemic of climate change is spreading, but we are not fully prepared. It is as if we are walking on the road without masks during the worst period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the general election date for federal, state and county officers is in November, I strongly encourage college students to vote and pay close attention to how candidates think about climate change when they plan for the future — your future. By working collaboratively, we can protect the people most at risk from extreme weather and create a sustainable world for the next generation.