Hurricane Ian Barrels Toward South Carolina, Leaving Destruction in Its Wake

After pummeling Florida, Hurricane Ian has its sights set on South Carolina. The death toll from Ian, which made landfall as a category four hurricane in Florida, has now risen to 21. Authorities still have to confirm that the deaths were related to the storm.

Ian downgraded to a tropical storm before strengthening into a category one hurricane on its trajectory toward South Carolina. Meteorologists expect Ian to make landfall again in South Carolina today before moving northeast toward North Carolina and Southwestern Virginia Friday night through Saturday morning. It will be the first hurricane to hit South Carolina since Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

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Florida is still assessing the damage of Hurricane Ian, mostly from flooding. Early estimates say that the damage could cost up to $40 billion. Florida’s former emergency management chief told NYTimes, “Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island look like they will need to be 80% rebuilt.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said it would be a yearslong recovery.

President Joe Biden said it could prove to be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history. Over two and a half million residents who were in the hurricane’s path are without power. Many are left with uninhabitable homes or do not have access to water, such as in Lee County, where a water main line broke.

“My message to the people of Florida and to the country in times like this: America comes together. We’re gonna pull together as one team, as one America. First thing this morning as I talked to Gov. DeSantis and again offered the fullest federal support.”

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said that Floridians affected by Ian need to rely on their own supplies for food and water for the next day or so. The government advises residents to save enough food and water for seven days before a significant storm. From days 3 to 5 after the storm, the National Guard and local community distribution will serve water and dry food. Hot food distribution will follow shortly after.

Governor DeSantis said 700 rescues had been conducted so far by air. Before the storm hit, the state government asked residents planning to shelter in place to fill out a survey to allow officials to have demographic information.

“Some of the damage was almost indescribable. I would say the most significant damage that I saw was on Fort Myers Beach. Some of the homes were wiped out, some of it was just concrete slabs.”

In 2013, during his time in the House of Representatives, DeSantis was against federal aid for the New York region after the damage of Hurricane Sandy. Now, he is asking for governmental assistance to help his state. He told Tucker Carlson, “when people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything — if you can’t put politics aside for that, then you’re just not going to be able to.”

At the time, DeSantis and Ted Yoho were the only House members to oppose the assistance package for Hurricane Sandy.

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President Biden said that the government would provide uninsured people in Florida an assistance of $37,900 for home repairs and another $37,900 for property loss. In Thursday’s speech, President Biden thanked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their prompt response.

“I’ve seen you in action all across the country from the West Coast of the Northwest and the Northeast, down in Louisiana, all across this country. And just in the last two weeks, you’ve been working 24/7. No matter what, when emergencies happen, FEMA is always there. You deserve the nation’s gratitude and full support.”

South Carolina is already feeling the effects of Hurricane Ian, with 10,000 residents without power. In anticipation of Ian’s arrival, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia declared a state of emergency. The National Weather Service says Hurricane Ian will likely not strengthen beyond a category one hurricane as it approaches South Carolina, sustaining wind speeds of 85 mph.


Most Countries Have Failed to Meet Climate Goals, U.N. Reports

In a report that the New York Times describes as “bleak,” the United Nations has warned that the world is headed towards climate catastrophes, as the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, have expanded their carbon footprint last year. Even countries that have pledged to substantially reduce carbon emissions have failed to do so to an extent that would prevent Earth’s temperature from increasing by 2 degrees celsius, a change that scientists around the world argue would have disastrous consequences on civilization and the nature of life on the planet. As such, the report urges the world’s 20 richest countries, including the world’s richest country, the United States, to take immediate and profound action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and switch to renewable energy. This is a tall order, particularly considering the fact that the US is currently in the process of withdrawing from the Paris accord and does not officially recognize the existence of climate change.

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According to the annual assessment, global greenhouse emissions have increased by 1.5 percent every year this decade, a trend which must be reversed in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. If this change is not made promptly, the U.N. predicts that increasingly intense droughts, stronger storms, and widespread food insecurity can be expected. Another organization, the World Meteorological Organization, separately produced a report with similar findings, which found a steady increase in the rate of man-made CO2 emissions since the start of the nineteenth century. 

While nearly every country in the world pledged to reduce carbon emissions drastically four years ago under the Paris Agreement, many countries, including some of the world’s greatest offenders, have so far failed to meet their own goals. Even if every country fulfills the goals they set for themselves as part of the agreement, however, global temperatures are still predicted to increase by 3.2 degrees Celsius, endangering billions of people and presenting potentially apocalyptic consequences in the long term. As such, the U.N.’s call for immediate drastic action is at once dire and warranted, given the reality of the problem as exposed by global scientific consensus.

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While the findings of the most recent U.N. report, among others, seem bleak, there is reason for optimism in the fact that technologies to reduce emissions drastically already exist, but require extensive political willpower to deploy at the necessary scale. In order to meet universally agreed-upon climate targets, the world will have to replace the combustion of fossil fuels, in particular coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, with renewable forms of energy like solar and wind. Furthermore, people will need to move away from gas-powered vehicles, replacing them either with public transportation infrastructure or electric cars. And other technologies, such as carbon-recapture systems, are currently in development and may one day reverse some of the consequences of carbon emissions.

However, many countries are not taking the necessary steps to prevent catastrophe in the UN’s eyes. Canada, for instance, has pledged to reduce carbon emissions within their own borders but has expanded fossil-fuel production for sale in other countries, and sales of inefficient gas-powered S.U.V.s around the world have increased. That being said, things are moving in the right direction, albeit very slowly. Renewable energy is expanding rapidly, though not nearly as fast as needed, and coal use is declining due to both climate concerns and economic factors. And the political action necessary to persuade world leaders to combat climate change more aggressively is underway, as millions of young people around the world have taken to the streets to demand change. Though climate change skeptics will tell you otherwise otherwise, this political action, in addition to investments and deployments of climate-friendly technologies, has the potential to determine the fate of civilization itself.