This year’s hurricane season was the fifth consecutive above-average hurricane season. The worsening of climate change plays a role in why hurricane seasons are more disastrous. And with every issue, social inequity intensifies the chaos. Now, social inequity mixed with climate change makes our insane hurricane season a climate justice issue.
The recent damage
The Atlantic hurricane season, one of the most active on record, was supposed to end on November 30, but it is predicted that more will come. Around 30 storms were named, and 12 of these storms reached land in the U.S. Thirteen storms became hurricanes, and there were 6 major hurricanes with wind speeds of 111 mph or more! The Atlantic hurricane season is supposed to run from June to November, but this season started off early with pre-season storms in May.
As a result, these impressive storms have affected the livelihood and well being of many.
With hurricanes still ongoing, it is difficult to accurately assess the damages. But it is said that there were over 30 billion dollars lost in damages. Additionally, it has claimed hundreds of lives. Many people have had to evacuate as extreme winds and flooding impacted their homes and towns. All of this added to the stress of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once the storms and hurricanes end, what will be left? For many people, their homes, business, places of work, and other parts of their lives were destroyed. The situation is devastating for anyone, especially those with fewer resources to pick up the pieces.
But hurricanes don’t discriminate?
It’s true. Hurricanes can’t be racist or classist themselves. But social inequity affects how communities will be able to reassemble their lives from the damages of these hurricanes. Those in low-income and BIPOC communities experience some of the worst effects of natural disasters, especially in the long run. This makes hurricanes a social justice issue.
These communities lack the resources and support to deal with the trouble that comes from natural disasters. Many cannot afford expensive flooding or storm insurance. Some people cannot even afford to evacuate when a storm is on its way. Also, relief funds tend to focus on property loss, rather than people’s needs. In some ways, natural disasters can make the poor poorer and the rich richer. At times, wealthier people will get more relief fund money and be able to even upgrade their homes. While poorer people continue to struggle to just get by. And renters face even more of a burden to find affordable housing after a storm. Many displaced unhoused people searching for shelter can make rent go up.
So, how is climate change involved?
Climate change seems to affect the intensity of storms. The science shows that climate change affects hurricanes and tropical storms in a few ways. Firstly, warmer sea surface temperatures can cause hurricanes to be faster and wetter. Faster wind speeds and more precipitation can be more deadly and damaging. Secondly, sea-level rise from melted glaciers can escalate storm surges and flood damage. Thirdly, climate change is changing the reach of hurricanes. The tropics are expanding towards the poles as temperature increases. This increases the area that hurricanes can travel through.
That said, the effects of climate change fall disproportional on low-income and BIPOC communities. The ways that hurricanes impact disenfranchised communities makes it a climate justice issue.
The increasing intensity of hurricanes and their effects on disenfranchised communities is a complex issue. Although there are many organizations working to help communities rebuild, more needs to be done to solve this issue. This would involve addressing climate change and social inequity. Both of these are large structural problems that need a lot of work and attention.
There are ways that anyone can tackle climate justice issues. Firstly, you can educate yourself and others on climate justice issues. Secondly, there are organizations you can join that tackle climate change or social justice issues, such as The Sunrise Movement, Climate Justice Alliance, and WE ACT. There are many other ways to personally fight climate injustice like voting, donating, sharing information, and using your own skills or job to make a difference.
But in the meantime, we can help those recently affected by 2020’s insane hurricane season. An option is to donate to broad organizations that help in disasters such as the American Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, or Americares. Or you can look into specific mutual aid and a local organization that you could donate to. This option may take a bit more research, but it helps communities more directly. It also ensures that resources will be used in ways that community members see fit for their situation. Social media outlets like Twitter or Instagram can share information about mutual aid funds. You can donate directly on gofundme.com pages or on mutual aid websites, such as RGV Mutual Aid and Imagine Water Works.