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Climate Change

12 Years to Halt Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN

A landmark report published on Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that dramatic measures must be taken to keep global warming temperatures at a maximum of 1.5C within 12 years.

If global warming temperatures exceed just half a degree, the risk for major natural disasters such as floods, droughts and extreme heat will significantly increase. Maintaining 1.5C is essential in preventing the extinction of coral reefs, and will ease pressure on an already buckling Arctic, say researchers.

The world currently sits at 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. The IPCC sates that, with an increase in hurricanes in the Carolinas, flooding and record drought in South Africa’s Cape Town, global warming is already a very real threat. The study says that maintaining the 1.5C target will mean “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC’s working group on impacts said, “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now.

“This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

The report was commissioned by policymakers at the Paris Climate talks in 2016. The Paris Climate Agreement is an important agreement between member countries of the UNFCCC to combat climate change. Since then, however, president Donald Trump has pledged to withdraw the US from the Accord while Jair Bolsonaro—presidential candidate in Brazil—has pledged to follow suit, worryingly widening the gap between politics and science.

What’s next for climate change?

If global warming temperatures reach even 2C, the IPCC suggests that the global sea level will rise by approximately four inches, potentially exposing 10 million people to the risk of flooding.

Kaisa Kosonen at Greenpeace said, “We are already in the danger zone at one degree of warming.

“Both poles are melting at an accelerated rate; ancient trees that have been there for hundreds of years are suddenly dying; and the summer we’ve just experienced—basically, the whole world was on fire.”

Member of the IPCC, professor Jim Skea, said of the urgency of combatting climate change that, “They [world governments] really need to start work immediately. The report is clear that if governments just fulfil the pledges they made in the Paris agreement for 2030, it is not good enough.”

Further reading: Climate Change Fears as Arctic temperature Rises

Hurricane Florence vs. the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence vs. the Carolinas

A day-by-day recap of the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence.

With more than one million people under mandatory evacuation, Hurricane Florence—at its worst a Category 5—was set to bring a powerful storm-surge to North Carolina. For an area unaccustomed to hurricanes, the destruction that followed has been catastrophic. Whilst Florence has weakened to a tropical depression, the current death toll stands at 17 and vast flooding continues to threaten the Carolinas and West Virginia.

Slow mover

By Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Florence’s peak wind speeds had fallen to 110mph, downgrading the hurricane to a Category 2. The relief was short-lived—the size of the storm’s wind field had increased, and the large hurricane made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina as a Category 1 on Friday morning.

Forecasters warned that the biggest threats were still to come, in what was expected to be a historic rain event. North Carolina was subjected to relentless rain and wind throughout the day, causing huge amounts of flooding with over seven inches of rainfall. 

Stranded

Toppled trees and debris from ruined storefronts blocked the flooded streets, and over half a million customers were left without power.

Emergency responders and volunteers in New Bern—a riverfront city near North Carolina’s coast—rescued hundreds who were trapped in their homes, cars or on rooftops. Residents were advised to take refuge on second story levels or attics to await rescue.

The first death reports

Among the first to die in the storm surge were a mother and her baby, after a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina. Emergency responders worked for hours to save them but they were both confirmed dead in the afternoon. The child’s father was taken to a nearby hospital with injuries, police said. The infant is one of two babies to have died in the storm.

A third person died in North Carolina’s Pender County and another two people were pronounced dead in Kinston, North Carolina. More deaths followed due to electrocution, wind levels, road fatalities and fires.

Tropical storm

By Friday evening, Florence had downgraded to a tropical storm and was moving slowly towards South Carolina, but the rain didn’t stop.

On Saturday morning, the National Weather Service predicted “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding”. Roads became impassable and emergency responders and volunteers made a further 700 rescues. As Saturday came to an end, 13 people had been confirmed dead, mainly as the result of flash floods.

Tropical depression

Florence weakened to a tropical depression on Sunday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 35mph. Nevertheless, The National Hurricane Center warned about the possibility of landslides across the Carolinas and West Virginia and stated that rain levels could reach 40 inches. More deaths were confirmed, bringing the toll to at least 17.

No relief in sight

Around 740,000 homes and businesses remain without power and Wilmington, North Carolina, has been completely cut off by floodwaters. The NFL Foundation has announced that it will contribute $1 million in Florence relief efforts, for the immediate needs of those affected.

Florence is expected to produce excessive rainfall as it moves from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England this week. Over 1,000 rescues have been carried out, hundreds of people are still trapped, and evacuation is ongoing. Authorities are urging people to be prepared for sudden flooding.

In a news conference, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that the storm has “never been more dangerous than it is right now.”

“The worst is yet to come,” say officials.

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence Heads Towards Virginia and the Carolinas

More than one million residents living the coastlines of Virginia and the Carolinas have been forced to evacuate their homes as the life-threatening Hurricane Florence hurtles towards the east coast.

Weather officials predict this storm to be one of the most powerful to ever hit the region, with forecasters estimating that the hurricane will make landfall this Thursday (September 13). Experts have reported that the region can expect potentially catastrophic winds of up to 150mph and high levels of flooding with up to two meters of rainfall.

The storm currently sits in category four on the national weather service’s (NWS) classification system, but the US national hurricane center (NHC) has said that it is closer to category five in strength—the most powerful classification as marked on the classification system.

At a news conference on Monday, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster said Florence “is particularly big, particularly strong and… there’s nothing stopping it.

“And when it hits the Gulf Stream in warmer water, it’s going [to intensify] even more.” McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday, along with the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland.

The NHC said, “The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity.”

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to say, “My people just informed me that this is one of the worst storms to hit the East coast in many years. Also, looking like a direct hit on North Caroline, South Caroline and Virginia. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!”

According to records, Hurricane Florence is the first storm at category four strength to hit the Carolinas for 30 years; the last occurrence was Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

People have been warned to steer clear of the coast’s beaches and oceans as the sea swelled and dangerous rip currents already surfaced over the weekend, forecasting the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Further reading: Did Hurricane Irma Happen Because of Climate Change?