WASHINGTON – Heavy rainfall events, devastating droughts and intense wildfires are all on the rise. The increased instances of these extreme weather events can be directly related to climate change. If something is not done to slow the climate change process, these extreme events will get worse and could ultimately become not only a national security threat—but an international security threat.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information defines extreme weather events as “weather phenomena that are at the extremes of the historical distribution and are rare for a particular place and/or time, especially severe or unseasonal weather.”
In recent years, it has been recorded that there has been more heavy rainfall that leads to severe flooding in the Northeast region of the United States and more droughts in the West, particularly in California. These events are directly related to a steady change in the global climate.
“We need to be aware that climate change is going to make these extremes even worse,” said Dr. David Easterling, chief of the Scientific Services Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, NC. Easterling studies climate change’s effect on extreme weather events.
Easterling warned that an extreme weather event like a drought could lead to international problems.
“If there were simultaneous droughts in the central United States, Russia and China, all areas where a lot of grain is grown…that can effect a lot of people,” said Easterling.
The U.S. government, along with numerous local and state officials, have realized that climate change and its relation to extreme weather events can lead to potential problems and have taken measures to address the issue.
For instance, naval bases have taken into account the need to possibly raise airstrips in preparation for sea level rise. States and cities have been tackling a rise in hot weather days by implementing heat advisory systems and creating cooling stations around in areas experiencing extreme heat.
The White House has also been looking into America’s national security both domestically and abroad. In May 2015, the White House released “The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate,” which compiles findings from numerous federal reports about the effects that climate change is having on people.
“The national security implications of climate change impacts are far reaching, as they may exacerbate existing stressors, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and political instability, providing enabling environments for terrorist activity abroad,” said the report.
Both the White House report and Easterling warned that extreme weather events could cause flooding, which could impact transportation by washing away roads and flooding airports. Floods can also present health risks to humans such as the lack of safe drinking water.
Easterling also noted that climate change is inevitable, but the rate at which it occurs has a lot to do with humans.
“Consider that long term, climate change is happening because we’re putting a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere…” said Easterling. “If we can reduce how much carbon dioxide we are putting in the atmosphere, then we can eventually begin reducing the impact that carbon dioxide is having on the climate.”