October 22, 2021

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How Have You Experienced Extreme Weather?

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It was “a summer of disasters.”

As the planet warms, extreme weather events such as wildfires, heat waves, hurricanes, droughts and floods are becoming more common. What extreme weather did you hear about during the summer? Did you experience any yourself?

How do you feel about the dangerous weather occurring around the world? What do these events tell you about where we are in the fight against climate change — and how we should move forward?

In “Overlapping Disasters Expose Harsh Climate Reality: The U.S. Is Not Ready,” Christopher Flavelle, Anne Barnard, Brad Plumer and Michael Kimmelman write:

In Louisiana and Mississippi, nearly one million people lack electricity and drinking water after a hurricane obliterated power lines. In California, wildfire menaces Lake Tahoe, forcing tens of thousands to flee. In Tennessee, flash floods killed at least 20; hundreds more perished in a heat wave in the Northwest. And in New York City, 7 inches of rain fell in just hours Wednesday, drowning people in their basements.

Disasters cascading across the country this summer have exposed a harsh reality: The United States is not ready for the extreme weather that is now becoming frequent as a result of a warming planet.

“These events tell us we’re not prepared,” said Alice Hill, who oversaw planning for climate risks on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. “We have built our cities, our communities, to a climate that no longer exists.”

In remarks Thursday, President Biden acknowledged the challenge ahead.

“And to the country, the past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the West and the unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here,” said Mr. Biden, who noted that a $1 trillion infrastructure bill pending in Congress includes some money to gird communities against disasters. “We need to do — be better prepared. We need to act.”

The article continues:

Damage from extreme weather, and threats to human life, will only increase as the planet warms. For every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming, the atmosphere holds about 7 percent more moisture, scientists have found. That means much heavier rainfall when storms do occur.

Across the continental United States, the heaviest downpours have become more frequent and severe, according to the federal government’s National Climate Assessment. The Northeast has seen 50 percent more rainfall during the heaviest storms compared with the first half of the 20th century.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Have you experienced extreme weather where you live? If so, what was it like? How has it affected your life and the lives of those in your community?

  • How do you feel about the increase in frequency of extreme weather around the world, and the intensifying effects of climate change? Is it something you discuss with your peers or parents? Why or why not?

  • What do you know about how climate change affects your area? You can answer based on your observations, or consult this map of climate risks around the world, or this map of precipitation in the United States. What questions do you still have?

  • What do you think of President Biden’s response, which is summarized in the article? If you do not live in the United States, how have your country’s leaders responded to extreme weather? Do you think that these events will encourage global leaders to take more drastic action? What kind of actions would you most like to see?

  • What do you know about how climate disasters affect communities that are already marginalized? Have you witnessed this firsthand?

  • “Young people like us have been sounding this alarm for years,” write four young climate activists in this guest essay. Do you feel like you and your generation are more concerned about climate change than older generations? Have members of older generations been receptive to your concerns?

  • Have you engaged in climate activism? If so, how? What changes are you pushing for?

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