Harvey has your eyes this week, but climate change needs your action

It’s already too late to stop every effect of climate change, but there’s still time for governments and people like you and me to tap the brakes and reduce some of the worst outcomes.

There is immediate human drama playing out in the Gulf Coast. Most of us can relate to the tragedies and struggles of people in that area of the country, and we feel for them.

The fury of Tropical Storm Harvey and the record rains falling in the region are also part of a larger story that is unfolding around the world at a pace that’s too slow to engage with our emotions the same way this epic storm has. Climate change happens over generations, but it is still threatening to outrun our reaction to it.

It’s already too late to stop every effect of climate change, but there’s still time for governments and people like you and me to tap the brakes and reduce some of the worst outcomes.

Extreme weather events like the Gulf Coast storm happen regardless of how global climate is changing. You know that weather and climate aren’t the same thing. Weather is what’s happening today. Climate is the weather pattern of a given area over time.

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If it happens to rain in Phoenix or we have a warm, dry day in Seattle, that’s just weather. But when the climate changes, weather patterns are changed as well.

Storms like Harvey happen in the Gulf, but they are rare. Global warming creates conditions that allow those storms to happen more often because warm ocean air powers hurricanes, so warmer oceans make more frequent and bigger storms possible.

National Geographic published a great explainer on Harvey, written by Craig Welch, who used to be the environmental reporter for The Seattle Times. The storm could have happened without climate change, but most likely climate change was a factor in making the size of the storm we are witnessing possible and making big storms happen more often than they would have in the recent past.

That last sentence really lacked drama. It’s hard for probabilities to focus our attention, especially when we all have so much else to worry about. Life is full of problems that are immediate and personal, like raising kids and paying bills and avoiding nuclear conflagration and Interstate-5 traffic jams.

Climate change is worth more of our concern. It’s already changing the planet. A study released this year found that Antarctic ice sheets are

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