It is not a matter of if, but of when: in just a few decades, researchers from UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) concluded that a catastrophic megaflood caused by atmospheric rivers due to climate change is set to wreak havoc across the state and generate an upwards of $1 trillion in damages.
Published in the journal Sciences Advances last Friday, the study found that the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere already “doubled the likelihood” of a catastrophic flooding event through the examination of the results from “ArkStorm 2.0,” a newly-developed severe storm and flooding scenario devised through advanced technology. Though California has struggled immensely with the presence of severe drought in recent years, climate change has compounded the risk that the state faces for severe flooding.
The planet is making us pay for mankind’s long history of neglectful behavior, and it is more imperative than ever for everyone— not just the government— to contribute to sustainability efforts before we reach the point of no return.
As the climate grows increasingly warmer, unforeseeable circumstances can become reality in just the blink of an eye. Many people will surely suffer at the hands of mother nature’s unforgiving grasps.
Thankfully, the international community has finally stepped up and taken action. In 2020, the United Nations Secretariat adopted a decade-long plan that will help curb some damages in regard to climate change. However, damage control is not enough. As long as the public continues to overlook the cries of the very celestial body that we depend on to survive, the dangerous heating of the environment will propel the planet into overdrive regardless. And we might not be so lucky once that day comes.
Those in the scientific community have warned us for years, but few grasped the urgency of their assertions. In the past when technology was not as advanced, the subject of climate change did not yet escalate into a serious concern. However, decades-worth of playful ignorance or unintentional neglect exploded into something that has dealt irrevocable damage. It has gotten to a point where the damage can no longer be reversed– it can only be contained.
There is no doubt that California is one of the most influential states in the nation. After all, with a population of 30 million, a substantial GDP that can even rival that of other countries, and an agricultural industry that supplies most of the food in the USA, California is a powerhouse that has served as a dependable ally to its brothers and sisters.
However, even money and technology cannot buy our escape from Earth’s clutches. The primary ‘physical mechanism’ of the projected surge in extreme precipitation is none other than atmospheric rivers, or filaments of concentrated water vapor in the sky. They are responsible for the primary transport from the tropics to the mainland, and the amount of water they hold is determined by environmental temperatures. Hence, as the atmosphere continues to warm at an alarming rate, the warmer climate will allow the floating rivers to hold more water from the Pacific Ocean, increasing the risk of severe precipitation events.
Surely, the Golden state must have the resources to prepare itself for what could potentially be the costliest natural disaster in American history. That begs the question: does throwing money at something really exterminate the root of an issue? In simple terms, absolutely not. Doing so just delays the inevitable– we cannot keep relying on artificial factors to bail us out every time. More people must care. The government is the voice of the people, and it is now up to us to put our needs on full display to those in power: we want more. There needs to be more transparency. There needs to be more urgency. It is not about performative activism anymore: the bare minimum is not enough.
Yet, all of the state’s bustling activity will possibly be shut down in just a matter of time. Now dubbed as California’s “Other Big One,” (the first being the upcoming earthquake along the San Andreas Fault), Californians can expect a repeat of what happened during the Great Flood of 1862, in which ravaging torrents brought about by rivers streaming down the Sierra Nevada mountains displaced livestock, ruined fields, and swept entire communities under water.
As unbelievable as it might sound, the Central Valley was transformed into an inland sea “300 miles long and 20 miles wide.” An insurmountable amount of damage was dealt as 4,000 people died, a third of all property was destroyed, a quarter of all cattle was wiped out, and the state went bankrupt as state employees suffered without pay for a grueling 18 months.
However, California is not the only region threatened by the devastating effects of the growing environmental crisis— the international community is very much dealing with the same critical issue. Recently, Seoul experienced torrential downpours and China experienced record-breaking heat spikes. Natural disasters are becoming more commonplace and the consequences are getting out of hand— if this keeps up, the global food supply will plummet, communities will be left impoverished, and the ocean will swallow us all.
Clearly, this issue does not only concern us. It also concerns the rest of the world. However, not all hope is lost: doing your part is relatively simple. Switch to electrical vehicles. Purchase a reusable water bottle. Venture into thrift stores. Little by little, we can fill in the cracks and change the world. Literally.