In an effort to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, the Environment America Research and Policy Center has produced an online map showcasing severe weather events over the last five years.
Environment Massachusetts hosted a conference call with reporters to hone in on the weather events that have hit the Bay State over the past half decade, which are spelled out in the map. Sharon Solomon is a campaign organizer with the group.
“As this map helps to demonstrate, global warming is happening now and it’s already hitting close to home,” Solomon said. “Every year weather-related disasters injure or kill hundreds of Americans across the country and cause billions of dollars of damage. While no one weather event can be said to be caused by climate change, scientists say that warming temperatures are making some of these events and their impacts worse.”
The map charts how many snowstorms, floods, droughts, wildfires, tropical storms and tornadoes have hit each county. Users can narrow their search to these specific events. The data was pulled from FEMA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In some instances, stories from those who experienced the weather events firsthand are shared. According to the map, Berkshire County has experienced eight major weather events in the past five years, six of which were snow or other severe storms.
“In Massachusetts we remember two of the six heaviest snowstorms ever recorded in the city of Boston were in this five-year period and are represented on that map,” said Solomon.
Dr. Adil Najam is dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“When we started working on the climate issue a quarter century ago I don’t think any of us expected that we would still be working on this a quarter century later,” Najam said. “Nor did most of us expect that we would be talking about impacts as a reality.”
Environment Massachusetts is supporting President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is being legally challenged by more than half of the states. The plan calls on states to reduce emissions from the power sector by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The group is also pushing the nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to strengthen the agreement. Najam says the severity of weather events is not the biggest concern, but rather the unpredictability. He says the addition of greenhouse gases over a relatively short period of time has messed with the atmospheric system.
“The reason that we have this erractic-ness is that what we knew about the system, which was very small to begin with, has become more and more unreliable because we’ve messed with the system enough that we do not know now how things will behave,” said Najam.
Najam adds that the most modernized countries have a responsibility to those less fortunate.
“There are millions and millions of the poorest people in the world whose future will depend on our emissions,” Najam said. “The costs that they are already having to pay are far, far greater than even the things that we can imagine. We are talking about loss of life, livelihood and in some countries the loss of very large swaths of populations. We have a modern responsibility to the planet.”