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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

We’re all taking a direct hit

And not all of us are responding to record temps, fires out West and now Florence.

President Donald Trump looks at a map showing

President Donald Trump looks at a map showing the potential impact of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast during a briefing Tuesday in the Oval Office. Photo Credit: EPA / REX / Shutterstock / Tasos Katopodis

When it comes to climate change, we live in two different worlds.

Last week, dozens of cities, states and major companies made strong pledges to fight climate change at California Gov. Jerry Brown’s global climate summit.

And the Trump administration proposed to make it easier for energy companies to release more of the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the air. It also wants to burn more coal, allow more carbon dioxide pollution from car and truck tailpipes, and let power plants emit more global-warming emissions.

This is madness.

And the latest proof played out on TV screens for the delegates in San Francisco and the dinosaurs in Washington — Hurricane Florence, drenching the Carolinas.

The storm itself is no creature of climate change. But its impact is.

A team of scientists, some at Stony Brook University, determined that Florence would dump 50 percent more rain than it would have without human-driven climate change — because of warmer ocean temperatures and more moisture in the air. Other researchers said Florence’s storm surge would be at least six inches higher than it might have been — because of sea level rise caused by humans.

This wasn’t groundbreaking. Last year, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found the 4-feet-plus of rain Hurricane Harvey dumped on Texas was nearly 40 percent higher than it would have been without global warming.

President Donald Trump called Florence a “tremendously wet” storm. Well, yeah. It’d be nice if he tried to do something about that.

Because it’s not only Florence, or the fires out West, or the recent spate of record temperatures all over. Recent reports show:

  • Climate change is a principal cause of world hunger that has left 821 million people undernourished; two-thirds of the 51 countries that experienced a food crisis in 2017 also faced a climate shock like temperature spikes or droughts, according to the UN.
  • Flooding related to sea level rise caused a loss of potential housing values in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut of $6.7 billion from 2005 to 2017, said the nonprofit First Street Foundation, which earlier determined that Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia lost $7.4 billion in potential home values for the same reason.
  • There’s a link between higher temperatures and higher suicide rates, Stanford University researchers say, and the rise is twice as much as the increase due to economic recessions.

Brown presaged the summit by signing a law requiring California, the world’s fifth-biggest economy, to have a 100 percent carbon-free electric grid by 2045. That’s big, and dozens of other U.S. cities are looking to follow suit.

At the summit, Tokyo, Seoul and 10 other cities joined an initiative to cut emissions in city centers. Companies like McDonald’s, Walmart and Levi Strauss & Co. will increase their use of renewable energy. Other firms announced plans to buy more electric vehicles. Some 27 cities said they had met the goal set by climate scientists for emissions to peak in 2020, and that their economies were growing even as emissions decline.

It all puts the lie to Trump’s contention that fighting climate change is bad for business. It’s no coincidence that when Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, corporate activism ramped up.

That’s one world.

The other world is there in North Carolina, where Republican lawmakers who took power in 2010 rolled back environmental regulations, allowed more development along a precarious coast, rejected a study from the state’s top research universities predicting alarming sea level rise, and banned state agencies from using those predictions to make policy.

And where Florence has been wreaking incredibly wet havoc.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.

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