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As I sit at my computer to write this column, the eastern part of the island of Newfoundland is being drenched by the remnants of hurricane Sally that pounded the gulf coast of the United States less than a week ago.
It brings back memories of hurricane Igor, which pummelled the same region 10 years ago and caused major damage here. While this is happening, weather forecasters are keeping an eye on hurricane Teddy which presently seems to be on a track to hit Nova Scotia by Tuesday or Wednesday. For many there, it may bring up memories of hurricane Juan in late September, 2003 which also caused major damage. It certainly appears that we are having an active hurricane this year and it may be a sign of what we can expect as normal in years to come.
One thing that is unusual about this year is the storm season started earlier and there are many more named storms than is typical. At one time last week, there were five named storms active in the Atlantic; an event that has only occurred once before in 1971. We have already exhausted the list of names for this season and have begun using names from the Greek alphabet. In addition, we are still only part way through the hurricane season, which can run into the month of November, which means it is likely we will set a record this year for the number of named storms in the Atlantic.
While one year is not sufficient to provide conclusive evidence, it does support the assertion by climatologists that climate change is real and we are having a major impact on the earth. One of the things we do know about hurricanes is that warm ocean waters contribute to their formation and allows them to grow stronger and maintain this power. This is the major reason why the gulf coast of the United States is at such high risk for damaging storms; they enter the gulf and strengthen as they pass over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before slamming into the coast. That hurricanes are reaching the shores of Atlantic Canada is a sign that our normally cold waters are also warming, and this will have major implications for our weather and economy.
Combined with the unprecedented fire season across the west coast of the United States, which has brought smoke and hazy skies all the way across the continent and into this region, one might believe climate change would be accepted as fact and government leaders would be mobilizing across the world to address this vital concern. Sadly, there are still leaders, including the current president of the United States, who continue to deny our climate is changing and who refuse to implement policies that will help stem the pace of this change before it is too late. Despite the facts of what is happening around us, some continue to cling to political expediency in refusing to make the necessary economic changes to address concerns around carbon reduction.
To be clear, we can't just drop support for our oil and gas industry, especially in this country where it forms such a big part of our economy. We also can't afford to ignore the impact such industries are having on our environment. We need to find a middle ground in which we adapt and transform our economy to energy sources that have less impact on our earth. This isn't a black-or-white situation and we can find common ground if we listen to one another. With the present political environment, where both sides of the issue are appearing to be entrenched in their positions, we may be entering a time of political storms to rival the hurricanes sweeping across the Atlantic. We will need to calm the political storms first before we have any chance of calming the physical storms and the latter just can't be put off any longer.
Brian Hodder works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.