When it comes to climate change, we often look to the weather to predict what is eventually going to happen, using it as a map of past weather trends to analyze and compare. As the summers get hotter, the rain falls into larger puddles, and the winters seem a little less cold every year, we tell ourselves, “eventually it will get worse,” to delay the consequences of a problem we have so evidently had a hand in creating. This time around, however, Hurricane Florence showed us the extent of climate change’s effect now, and how lax policy making is only making the problem worse,
The aftermath of Florence’s wake extends past property damage and physical injury. Florence’s effects are expected to be present for years after its landfall with pollution from pig excrement and toxic coal ash potentially seeping into rivers and into people’s homes.
A study by Stony Brook University looked into the actual effect of climate change on Hurricane Florence and found that its impact was indeed significant. The study found that Florence’s forecasted size was 80 kilometers larger due to climate change. The same study also found that Hurricane Florence’s forecasted rainfall was 50 percent larger due to climate change and warmer sea temperatures.
These large-scale effects make it easy to assign hind-sighted blame. However, with the spillover of hog-lagoons, ponds filled with pig waste, and pits of coal ash being flooded by the rainfall, it’s easy to see the reality of causes of climate change in our own cities. An estimated 132 hog-lagoons were flooded, and an approximate 5,500 hogs and 3 million chickens have died, after Florence hit, according to Rolling Stone.
North Carolina’s pork industry benefits from incredibly relaxed regulations, with the state’s top five hog-producing counties producing 15.5 million tons of manure annually. Due to looser environmental regulations, pig farming has been outsourced from China to the United States. Here, in North Carolina specifically, open-aired, non-lined waste pits, as in hog-lagoons, are permitted, making the farming and maintenance of hogs cheaper, yet more dangerous to the health of citizens who live near these farms.
On a national level, President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled back environmental regulations which have been in place for years. Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule has dismantled the Clean Air Act (CAA), which standardized air pollution to safe levels, and the Clean Water Act (CWA), which regulated the output of pollutants in American water. Without these regulations in place, states are allowed to suspend groundwater monitoring, which benefits the coal industry, a major contributor to green-house gases.
The spillover of hog-lagoons and coal deposits have created a health concern for more than 100,000 North Carolina residents. According to the Environmental Working Group, an estimated 160,000 residents may be harmed by pig waste. Loaded with bacteria like E. Coli and dangerous pathogens, the pig waste has the potential to breed dangers ranging from eye infections to deadly disease, such as salmonella and giardia, according to Dr. Michael Mallin of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The health and safety of North Carolina residents have been compromised because of greedy politicians seeking short-term profit, without considering the implications in years to come. In this case, Hurricane Florence revealed the dangers of these regulations, or lack thereof.
Hurricane Florence showed us the reality of the effect of climate change. It also showed us the impact of poor legislation at the hands of politicians eager to manipulate the law in hopes of making a profit. Although North Carolina residents will be dealing with the aftermath of Florence, and bad policy making, for many years to come, we can only hope that these unfortunate events have shown us the importance of taking action, starting at the political level, in order to protect our earth.
The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Campus Carrier and Viking Fusion news staff.