Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 431, 1 September 2021

Climate Change: Hurricane Ida destructs the US Gulf Coast
Akriti Sharma

In the news
On 29 July, hurricane Ida, a category 4 storm made landfall near Port Fourchon in Louisiana with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and a minimum central pressure of 930 mb. It again made a second landfall as category 4 storm in the southwest of Galliano with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph and a minimum central pressure of 935 mb. It made landfall on the 16th anniversary of hurricane Katrina reminding the people of the devastation caused fifteen years ago. The hurricane was so strong that it reversed the course of the Mississippi River.
 
On 30 July, President Joe Biden said: "We know Hurricane Ida had the potential to cause massive, massive damage, and that's exactly what we saw." He added: "We're going to stand with you and the people of the Gulf as long as it takes for you to recover."
 
Issues at large
First, the vulnerability of the Gulf Coast. The coastline along the Gulf of Mexico is more susceptible to tropical storms. Additionally, the coast is prone to receiving early-season cyclones. Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, central America, are more likely to witness the storms of severe category. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US' coasts are vulnerable to cyclones and hurricanes, especially North Carolina and Florida.
 
Second, the frequent weather anomalies. The US has recently witnessed heatwaves and wildfires across the country. The risk of climate disasters is increasing in the region. Weather anomalies have become frequent and intense in the northern hemisphere.
 
Third, the impact of human-induced climate change. The storms are moving slower, producing more rainfall and generating increased surges along the coasts, which can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change. Hurricanes are getting intense because of the excessive warming of the oceans. Global warming facilitates the increased intensity of hurricanes. The recent Sixth Assessment Report by the IPCC states that the global proportion of the cyclones of category 3 to 5 have increased in the past four decades due to the rapid warming of the ocean. Hurricane Ida is said to have undergone a rapid intensification of 65 mph in 24 hours which is only possible if the ocean warming is occurring at an abnormal pace. 
 
Fourth, inability to build resilience. The hurricane has destroyed the oil and gas refineries along the gulf coast, which will lead to an increase in prices. Even after the destructive landfall of Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed the industrial infrastructure in the region, it lacks the ability to build disaster-resilient infrastructure. With the increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, building resilient infrastructure is the key to reduce the loss. 
 
In perspective
First, the early warning system. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US has already predicted the landfall of a severe hurricane. Compared to Hurricane Katrina which took the lives of 1,800 people, Ida has only caused one casualty. The ability to manage disasters and hurricanes, in particular, has improved over the years. However, the infrastructural loss still remains a concern. So far, building resilient infrastructure has not been successfully achieved. 
 
Second, the climate disasters and the pandemic. The region is already facing the fallouts of the pandemic, and climate disasters like the hurricane make it worse. The US has witnessed heatwaves and wildfires in recent weeks, and their link with climate change is becoming clearer. Such events serve as the climate alarm and indicate that efforts taken towards the mitigation of climate change are not enough.

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