‘We are witnessing the devastating consequences’: Climate leaders sounds alarm as Hurricane Fiona pummels Puerto Rico

‘We are witnessing the devastating consequences’: Climate leaders sounds alarm as Hurricane Fiona pummels Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona has battered Puerto Rico, shutting off power to the entire island and sending floods into towns and cities.

On the other side of the world, the remains of Typhoon Merbok hit Alaska and flooded the state’s west coast — just as Typhoon Nanmadol hit Japan, forcing evacuations.

These kinds of disasters are indicative of the climate crisis-altered world we’re already living in, climate scientist Michael Mann said on Democracy Now!

“We are witnessing the devastating consequences of climate change now. This isn’t 10 years into the future, it’s not way off in the Arctic, it’s where we live now,” Dr Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

“It really drives home the importance of taking action now,” he added.

Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm on Sunday, dumping more than 20 inches (50 centimetres) of water in some places. As a result, the entire island lost power, hundreds of thousands have gone without running water and floods have crippled infrastructure like homes and bridges.

Hurricanes in the Atlantic aren’t new — but as the climate gets warmer, these storms could get a lot stronger on average.

Warmer air and oceans can supercharge a storm as it moves toward land, creating stronger winds and more rainfall.

In Puerto Rico, residents saw the impact of the climate crisis five years ago as the Category 4 storm Hurricane Maria hit — and Fiona brings a stark reminder of that deadly disaster, which left nearly 3,000 people dead and parts of the island without running power or water for weeks.

“Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico just days before the five-year remembrance of Hurricane Maria,” tweeted the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“The storm has left communities without power, reminding us of the consequences if climate change is left unchecked.”

Hurricane Fiona has also made some people focus on rebuilding effectively after climate disasters like hurricanes sweep through. In Puerto Rico, some of the infrastructure that was rebuilt after Maria failed as rain and winds pummelled the island this week.

A bridge that was built in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria collapsed this week as floodwater surged over the roadways. And the entire power grid on the island failed, five years after much of the island lost power for weeks — or months — on end.

“Solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico as they begin to recover from Hurricane Fiona. Our leaders must mobilize every resource to help rebuild,” tweeted the Sunrise Movement, a climate activist non-profit.

“As the climate crisis intensifies, the people of PR must be given the resources and agency to build a livable future on their terms.”