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In the six years since the Paris Agreement was signed, the climate crisis caused disasters and slow changes in familiar landscapes, disrupting life around the world
With the cheers of the Paris climate agreement, representatives from all over the world triumphantly announced that the climate crisis will eventually be tamed. For the next six years, many people in the United States will feel very empty.
After reaching a landmark agreement to curb dangerous global warming in 2015, the United States has experienced four of the hottest five years on record. The unprecedented severe drought in modern civilization has strengthened control of the western United States, dried up cities and farms, triggered the eight largest wildfires on record in California, and choked most of the rest of the country in smothering smoke.
The huge storm was once again stimulated by high temperatures and ravaged Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast. Scientists have discovered that many of these disasters are most likely caused by climate change.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States, from 1980 to 2020, the United States suffered an average of seven disasters each year, causing at least $1 billion in losses. The average for the last five years (2016 to 2020) is a huge leap-more than 16 such disasters occur each year.
In these five years, within the time limit of the Paris climate agreement, the loss caused by disasters caused by climate change in the United States exceeded US$600 billion, setting a new record. As governments once again gather in Scotland to participate in important UN talks aimed at advancing progress in Paris, Joe Biden represents a country that has suffered unprecedented harm due to the escalation of the emergency.
Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University who grew up in New York City, said that after Hurricane Ida swept through Louisiana with winds of 150 mph in August, he saw dead bodies floating in urban basement apartments. , Which makes me feel "personal pain". An extraordinary journey northward to New Jersey and New York as a tropical storm.
"People can’t sleep in the richest cities in the richest countries and feel they won’t drown, which is hateful on many levels-we are far behind in ensuring that the poor live safely, including when the climate is out of control. Security," Oppenheimer said.
In addition to economic losses, these continuous disasters have brought great pain and suffering, mental suffering, displacement and confusion to Americans. We asked some writers from all over the country to share what the climate disaster looks like from their perspective. Together with the content submitted by the Guardian readers, their story is as follows. — Oliver Millman
I remember standing on the shore of Glacier Bay, thinking this is the wildest and most beautiful place I have ever experienced. The bear traced the size of the pie pan in the low tide mud around me. The huge iceberg ran aground on the shore, glowing. The bird spoke in the dialects of Kitivak and Tern. The seals patrolled in the cold water, their obsidian eyes stared at me and turned back to me.
And the glacier itself, only half a mile away, whispered in the echo of the Pleistocene. Not just a glacier, but a tidal glacier that descends from a tall snow-capped mountain to the sea, where it collapses the blue spire into a rock-ribbed fjord.
A steady five knots of wind blows; my little jacket thermometer reads 39F.
It was May 1979, when I first arrived in Alaska. It changed my life and set me free. It taught me how to survive, and more importantly-to live fully.
Fast forward 40 years to July 2019. My wife Melanie and I made our home in the small town of Gustavus, next to Glacier Bay. We had moose in our driveway and crows in the treetops. We spent 20 years there. -The old nephew Tanner came to visit. Record high temperatures are everywhere. The temperature in Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 5 degrees higher than the previous highest temperature in history.
When I took Tanner up to the bay to see the scenery, something shocked me: the warm wind blowing from the glacier. The cold is gone. The whole place feels wrong. Surprisingly quiet. There are no kittiwakes or terns. Not a single seal.
Tanner has no reference points. But I did it, and I was shocked.
In the summer of that year, salmon died in the estuary. The whale was washed to death. The permafrost has melted and threatened infrastructure in most of the northern part of the state. When it melts, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more effective than carbon dioxide. Coupled with the warming North Pacific, its acidity is about 30% higher than in the past.
Now, to 2021, the six hottest years on record are the past six years. The first Gustavus snow that once arrived on Halloween may not appear until January. Soon thereafter, God's angry rain washed it away. Floods occur more frequently than in the past. Last year, in the nearby town of Haines, heavy rain triggered a landslide, killing two people. In the north, aboriginal villages are being washed into the sea.
What will happen to our livelihood, future and home?
Gustavus built a new community center to provide housing for citizens in an emergency. Soon, a new root cellar will be completed. One day, we might gather there with our children and guitars, and eat potatoes for every meal.
In Glacier Bay, many glaciers no longer enter the sea. As a result, more waters in the bay are ice-free, and harbor seals must look elsewhere for icebergs to give birth to their cubs to avoid predation.
I think glaciers are the architects and carpenters of Alaska; how they shape the entire landscape, they also shape me. I feel sad for their passing and try to find hope in my neighbors. Despite all the mistakes made by human beings, we have extraordinary ability to learn and change, and when we do—if we do— —It’s not too late.
Driving through the parish of Terrebonne, you can see how the trees bend or break; the roots are upturned. After the storm, it has always been a question of whether the entrenched residents can stay. Outsiders asked why they even wanted it.
After Hurricane Ida, I was displaced from my home in Houma, southeastern Louisiana, for 50 days. As a reporter, facing disaster as a person is a strange experience. More than 60% of my apartment building is considered unsuitable for living. For the sake of objectivity and neutrality, I do not refuse disaster relief food or cleaning supplies.
In the two and a half weeks after the hurricane, I drove four hours from Lafayette to Houma to report most of the time. I ration gasoline every day to make sure I have enough to travel and come back. Houma has no gas.
I reported on the indigenous communities in the lower reaches of the estuary, who took the restoration work in their own hands. "Everyone wants to come back," a mother said of people displaced by the storm. "Our ancestors lived here for generations."
A disabled fisherman said that it is time for Mississippi to start again. He said that the bay has reached the mouth of the river. "Do you see how the road shakes when the car passes by? There is no more land here."
You think about what people lose when they leave. "I know that living in the estuary is dangerous because it may happen again," a woman told me. But "It hurts to pull out your roots. If you do move, you will distract people."
I am lucky to have a house in Houma again. But many of my neighbors are still homeless, sleeping in tents, cars, and hotels hundreds of miles away.
I watch state and federal agencies disappoint my neighbors every day. Last year was the most active hurricane season on record. Residents of Lake Charles still have blue tarps on their roofs, waiting for recovery and rescue. Abandoned canals left by the oil and gas industry have exacerbated land loss. Louisiana loses a football field coastline every 100 minutes. The dead oak trees lined up along the Pointe-aux-Chenes pier are used as a cemetery.
At the first signs of temporary housing more than a month after the storm, what can you do when you see erosion in the community?
Why do we treat these spaces as consumables?
At the end of May, we left our home in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina because it was too hot to sleep at night. In a way, leaving southern Arizona was a pandemic decision. But to a large extent, this is a climatic factor, a response to the anxiety that has reached its climax over the years.
I like the heat and the sun, and I like the dry and unapologetic desert. Since my children remember, we have fried eggs on the sidewalk and baked cookies and cakes on the dashboard of our closed summer car. We know that in some months, noon is more suitable for imitating sleeping desert creatures than trying to run errands or increase productivity.
But at some point, the scale has tilted-too many consecutive three-digit weeks, summer nights will not be cool, extremely dry weather forecasts, wildfires licking on the horizon, and predictions of more extreme conditions in the future.
In 2020, Tucson will receive only 4.17 inches of rainfall. In contrast, the monsoon season of 2021 swept like a monster, triggering floods and submerging rainwater systems. This summer, the water level of Lake Mead fell to its lowest level since the 1930s, resulting in an 18% reduction in water supply to the Colorado River in Arizona. At the same time, the increase in groundwater extraction led to ground subsidence and ground fissures-huge irreversible fissures spread across roads and private property, and one of the fissures reportedly swallowed a horse.
According to a study, several counties in Arizona may become uninhabitable in the next 20 to 40 years. However, somehow, the population continues to explode. Between 2010 and 2020, Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, grew by nearly 16%. Conversations with family and friends have taken on the pre-apocalyptic tone: we are living a life beyond our means. The desert cannot accommodate all of us. How long can water last? When will you leave?
In North Carolina, we live on a mountain, everything is soft, covered with moss, full of mist and humidity. My desert children have never experienced a real autumn before, and they are fascinated by the concept of the leaves being piled high enough to pass through. But, of course, no place is immune to the effects of climate change—in August, tropical storm Fred rained as much as 17 inches in three days, causing our county to declare a state of emergency.
I feel like a person has been split in half. I like it here very much and I miss home very much. The desert is a permanent stone in my chest, heartache. I miss the prickly pears that grow like weeds in the alleys, the prickly legumes, the fruit-bearing cacti, the Palo Verdes that sprinkled yellow flowers on the sidewalks, the cunning coyotes that hunt stray cats, all rusty The human treasures are washed and buried in Arroyos, the creosote smell before the rain, as hot as a hair dryer, Windex-blue sky that lasts forever.
When special and sacred places are burned, friends and strangers are displaced, animals die, and the sun turns a weird blood red in the sky, many people in our affected areas will feel heavy grief. It is disturbing and sad to watch precious things missing.
However, the result is a real testament to our community: neighbors check neighbors, friends are eager to help evacuate livestock or chainsaws, rake and pack trucks, strangers open their homes and guest rooms, and people show up for help without being asked.
I was born in Penawahpskewe (Penobuscote people) and grew up in a culture deeply intertwined with the Penawahpskewe River. The river has no clear end. We started. Our people see this river as a beloved member of our community. In fact, the Penobscot River is recognized as the first citizen of Penobscot’s country, admitting that we all drew our lives from her waters.
My grandfather took me to those waters when I was very young and taught me canoeing before I learned to ride a bike. There, I learned about my place in creation, which is related to the livelihood and lifestyle that has supported our people for thousands of years. Our way of life is not measured from an economic point of view, but through a continuous relationship with the local environment. For more than 500 generations, our people have been closely related to the plant and animal species that live in and along rivers, relying on them for food, medicine, rituals, and our overall well-being. In the past five generations, industrial pollution has destroyed this relationship.
The paper mill came to our coast in 1901. The fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emission rate of the pulp and paper industry are among the highest on earth. They are distributed along waterways, build dams, and then dump waste water into the water in the form of hot leachate, thereby increasing the water temperature and the surface temperature. Such industrial activities and other industrial activities have exacerbated global warming and disrupted the ecosystem that is indispensable for the survival of our culture. Warming rivers and dams put Atlantic salmon and other fish on the brink of extinction. And the damage is not limited to rivers. For example, a 2018 study showed that approximately 70% of new moose calves die from winter tick disease, which is a direct result of climate warming.
The water gets warmer every year. As a child, ice is one of my favorite annual activities. I like to watch the river shrug from her winter layer and signal the transition to spring. But twice in the past five years the ice disappeared in the middle of the winter. This should be everyone's concern. The Penobscot River is one of the last refuges for cold-water fish in the United States. The change in our water temperature has had a devastating effect on all eastern fisheries and surrounding ecosystems. However, as I write this article, a new paper mill is legally dumping large amounts of steam wastewater into the river.
People write about climate change as if it is an imminent ghost. However, when we look closely, we will find that ghosts are humans, and this species will benefit a lot from the simple truths my grandfather taught me on the Penobscot River-the earth is not developed by endless development. Resource composition; it is full of loved ones who must be cared for and respected.
Perkins County, South Dakota
Under the terrible smell of smoke and burning, we woke up with a glowing red dawn. "Near or far?" I want to know.
It is far away-500 miles west of Montana, but we are still in a state of tension because it is autumn and we have been under fire surveillance for nearly nine months. Earlier last spring, a wildfire passed within a mile of our sheep and cattle ranch in South Dakota, and now whenever the wind starts to blow, soot will rise. The year-long drought cracked the ground and prevented the growth of grass, which meant that all the ashes destroyed by the fire had no chance to merge with the soil and nourish new growth. Sometimes when my husband came back from repairing the fence, he looked like he was working in a coal mine. His face was tanned dark brown and the nostrils were covered with black.
Even if there is soot, even if there is smog, I go for a walk most nights-it seems that only exercise can control my anxiety. It is easy to imagine what the scenery here would be like when my husband's great-grandparents came here and started to build their home 100 years ago. It may be exactly the same: hills, valleys, a few trees, a lot of hay. The region has been rehearsing climate change for generations. The boom and bust cycles of drought are scribbled on the DNA of grasses, which have deep roots and don’t mind dormant for a few years.
But this drought is different. It lasts longer and is more extensive. We cannot put hay to feed our animals for the winter, and the cost of hay is at a record high, because hundreds of miles of land in all directions are equally dry or drier.
Over the past few thousand years, these hillsides have been classified as grasslands, with an average annual rainfall of 13 inches. After most of the early homesteaders lost everything when trying to cultivate the land, most of those who stayed learned to follow the ancient rhythm of our ecosystem through trial and error, which requires large ruminants to graze while walking. Nourish the soil. Arikara, Hidatsa and later Lakota and Dakota followed the rhythm followed by herds of bison using these lands as summer hunting grounds.
Can we learn this new rhythm?
I walked to the furthest place and stood under a thick white poplar tree. Her yellow leaves rustled; it was impossible not to hear laughter in her voice. She already knew almost everything I wanted to figure out. Deep roots, bent but not broken branches. "As long as you have it, that's how long it will take," she told me. I hope I can learn these things faster, because I think we have run out of time.
In the early part of this decade, there have been severe winters with heavy snowfall and continuous snowfall. Since around 2014, we have not experienced such a winter. Instead, more tropical storms, heavy rains and sustained strong winds caused flooding and tree damage quite frequently in spring and summer. In the three years that my wife and I have owned our home, we have seen two tornadoes, hurricanes, and tropical storm incidents that easily reach double-digit rates.
In June 2020, I returned to the land where I grew up, and the changes in the threat of drought and fire are screaming. The crunch of the leaves under my feet was louder than I remembered, and I could no longer fully immerse my body in the stream of the valley below.
The season of smoke and flames began in August of last year, and dry lightning ignited 650 wildfires in northern California overnight. It wasn't until November that I took a deep breath all day outside. My mind is occupied by the home before this. I miss home when I'm at home.
This year, I told myself that preparation would ease my nervousness. After Dixie ignited in July, I started my fire prevention checklist. Dixie is still not under control and is now the second largest fire in California history, burning nearly 1 million acres.
The most recent fire occurred in the afternoon of August 4. I work at the desk upstairs. I moved my gaze away from the computer, looked to the floor, and noticed a beam of orange rectangular sunlight from the skylight above. When I ran outside to see for myself, I checked for updates on Twitter. This is a new kind of flame, a river fire, eight miles away from home, burning at me.
My legs take me down the mountain. I stood on a familiar rock and watched ashes fall by my side. I feel at home. I remembered the words of Teacher Bayo Akomorav: "Time is running out, let us slow down." The intensity and distance of the fire will only increase. Why do I feel more relaxed in sadness? How was your health when you were sick?
The fire was brought under control within a week, and my area never changed from an evacuation warning to a mandatory requirement, so I stayed at home and unloaded my car a few days after filling up the gas. I realize this is not just preparation that makes this season feel different. I feel closely related to my current life, not just my previous life. I know that the "changes" of climate change include us humans. This crisis will not necessarily have an "end", but there will be many ends and many beginnings.
This story first appeared in the Guardian as part of Covering Climate Now, a global news collaboration aimed at enhancing coverage of climate stories.
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