It’s been a devastating year of natural disasters, from record-breaking wildfires tearing through California to two major hurricanes hitting the Southeast within a month ― and that’s just in the U.S.
Scientists have long warned of the dangers that a warming climate poses to our planet. This year alone, a United Nations report delivered a dire warning to countries to scale back greenhouse gas emissions before the effects of climate change become irreversible; and a federal climate report predicted the U.S. will warm at least 3 more degrees by 2100 unless fossil fuel use is curtailed. Meanwhile global carbon emissions were expected to reach a record high this year.
But the dire consequences of climate change are not just possibilities in a distant future ― they’re already here. While most scientists generally won’t attribute any single weather event or disaster to climate change, the scientific community, including experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has warned that human-driven global warming influences extreme weather events ― for instance, more frequent and intense storms or wildfires.
“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We’re seeing them play out, in real time, on our television screens and in our newspaper headlines,” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told HuffPost.
He noted that the “record floods, heat waves, droughts and wildfires” as well as “superstorms” seen over the past couple years have “as an underlying cause, the effects of climate change.”
Here are some of the year’s major natural disasters that show the devastation of climate change is on our doorstep.