Kilauea: The Reality of America’s Global Warming Denial

Kilauea: The Reality of America’s Global Warming Denial

Kilauea is no joke. 

The volcanic incident in Kilauea, Hawaii is as unprecedented as many other weather incidences that we have had in recent times. From the Texas flooding in 2017, to the hurricane in Puerto Rico, and the California wet winter and wildfire that destroyed over a thousand single-family homes and commercial buildings, these incidences, and others, made 2017 the costliest year of destruction— in the figure of approximately  $306 billion. However, these natural occurrences are in sync with America’s  denial of climate change. The U.S should be at the forefront of climate change awareness but it isn’t. As the world’s leader, America should be taking the right steps to steer other nations into the right direction. Let’s talk about Kilauea and then let’s discuss sustainability solutions.

Kilauea is no joke. It adds to the ever-growing body of evidence supporting global warming and climate change. Global warming denotes  the constant rise in average global temperature due to  carbon dioxide, pollutants, and greenhouse gases collecting in the air. For example, 2017 was the hottest year in NASA’s 134 year recorded history. In fact, San Francisco recorded 106 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the 103 degrees Fahrenheit then record set on June 14, 2000. Similarly, in 2017 California averaged 123 degrees, while Las Vegas’ temperature reached heights up to 114 degrees. Our water is also affected by climate change. American seas, lakes, and rivers are also experiencing record-high water levels. Lake Erie’s water levels are reported to be at their highest since 1998 and Lake Ontario’s water levels have been peaking at the highest point since 1918. This is all due to the fact that, globally, glaciers are melting at comparatively faster rates. As a result, sea levels are rising at comparatively faster rates. Globally, the Maldives is facing a rise in sea water levels and losing its coral reefs. In NASA’s 134-year history, some of the 16 hottest years and highest sea-level records have occurred since the year 2000.

Kilauea is not joke. Denial would mean insisting that global emissions have nothing to do with these freak weather instances, while being presented with evidence of extreme weather conditions prove otherwise. When there is an increase in temperature, it intensifies the Earth’s water cycle and consequently increases evaporation. Increased evaporation causes more storms, which results in increased precipitation and flooding. On the contrary, areas that are geographically further away from water experience drought. In fact, South Sudan and Somalia are in a conflict triggered by drought. and we foresee that countries like Yemen and Nigeria are going to be affected next. Despite the urgency for reform, America’s retreat from the Paris agreement is indicative of our  government’s attitude towards advancing solutions for this issue.

Kilauea is no joke. It is the purest manifestation of the consequence of our denial. Hawaii is not new to Volcanic incidents, however, the dimension it took this year is exceptional. The fissures, linear vents through which lava erupts, in residential neighborhoods have destroyed over two dozen homes and forced 1700 people to relocate. Never before has a volcano reached this extent of destruction so rapidly. Climate scientists have been warning that extreme weather will be frequent and deadly for years. In proof of their arguments, on Sunday, May 20th lava flowed into the Pacific Ocean forming hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles. This chemical has caused two deaths to date because of the damage it inflicts on the human lungs, eyes, and skin.

It is evident that the event is still unfolding and causing more havoc. Kílauea is a youthful shield volcano, so it is not unusual for Kilauea’s volcano to erupt. The difference between what is naturally expected and what we are experiencing is in the magnitude and freak weather instances. For example, Kilauea’s eruption started with 17 fissures then  increased to 22 fissures all in unsuspecting residential areas.  As of May 21st, three earthquakes were reported to have hit Hawaii all in less than two weeks.  Additionally, Kilauea’s lava bombs are 30, 000 feet in the air, which is affecting evacuation flight plans. Residents are losing access to help as the volcanic activities have reached levels that jeopardize the health and safety of first responders. Scientists fear more eruptions as cracks are widening. These cracks indicate that  rift zones are being forced apart. Rift zones and summits are where eruptions originate. When the rocks in rift zones are weak, it is easy for molten magma to make its way through. Specific to Kilauea, the consequence is  additional eruptive activity and therefore more health concerns and property destruction. At  of the time of this writing, over 2000 residents of the Pahoa region have been forced to relocate, 325 acres of land  and 41 structures have been lost to molten rock flows.

We must acknowledge our climate is changing and elicit ways by which we can reduce our carbon footprint. We can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere by reducing the hours of our drive-time, using recyclable materials, and by reducing the amount of waste that we generate. Kilauea is a clarion call for more responsive government policies on climate change and a revert to applicable policies that were overturned by the current administration. On the ground efforts by individuals must also be matched by corporations and larger business entities that create more waste. However, this cannot happen when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), charged with instituting and enforcing preventative measures, is deliberately reversing the laws that were meant to make our planet sustainable. For instance, the EPA issued restrictions on science research and roll backed  vehicle emissions standards policies. The White House ended NASA’s climate monitoring program, which monitors carbon emissions to inform of countries’ adherence to the Paris agreement, and its emissions information request meant to better track the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions. As of the time of this writing, it doesn’t appear that the EPA is working towards new reform.

To acknowledge the work that is being done by individuals and organized bodies, I’d like to highlight the March for Science; a global movement powered by community organizers and advocates to increase awareness and solutions protecting our Earth. Alliance for Clean Jobs and Energy and Carbon Washington are also doing responsible work in this space. However, I must be honest and admit that research proves there is an urgent need to do more and quickly. While the March for Science has lived up to its name by protesting the Trump’s administration’s roll-back on environmental policies, there is still a dire need to create aggressive awareness of the work this and other advocacy groups are doing. Sustainability is a movement that needs consistency and numbers. The government roll-back is gaining momentum because a majority of the population is unaware of the consequences. Like most intricacies of government, most people do not even know that such policies even existed at all. Therefore, it is up to us to take note of disasters like Kilauea and spread the word to our loved ones about to to enact reform. We can also take notes from  our international peers and implement some of their on the ground sustainability efforts. Nature has a way of getting back at us at every point it feels ‘cheated’ or taken for granted.

Kilauea is no joke because climate change is not fake news!

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