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November 08, 2013

Super Typhoon a Wake-Up Call on Clean Energy

Aftermath-of-Typhoon-HaiyanPhoto by Sonny Day, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Dan Byrnes, Sierra Club Media Team

Off the charts. Strongest of the season. Super typhoon.

These are the descriptors media reports have given to Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, which made landfall in the Philippines on Friday.

With winds of up to 147 miles per hour, this typhoon might be stronger than any other of its kind to touch land in history. But even worse, the storm brought massive destruction to communities in the Philippines. At least four people were killed, and nearly 720,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.

Just days after the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and properties in the northeastern United States, this super typhoon reminds us that increasing erratic weather has indeed become the new norm worldwide.

But we don't need to keep hearing these wake-up calls. We know what is fueling these superstorms, and there's something we can do about it. Climate disruption and its associated warmer temperatures are aggravating our weather patterns. Warmer ocean water pumps more energy into tropical storms, making them more intense and potentially more destructive. And warmer temperatures could increase the probability of drought and wildfire.

What can we do to slow these storms and save other communities from threatening blows? The U.S. must lead on global climate action by reducing and ultimately eliminating the number-one cause of climate disruption -- carbon pollution.

True, the U.S. has made progress within its borders to reduce carbon pollution. A grassroots-led effort to move beyond fossil fuels like coal and oil and the advocacy of thousands has led us into a clean energy revolution with wind, solar, and other energy-efficient solutions. And the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever standards to clean up dangerous carbon emissions from new power plants in the U.S., the biggest unchecked source of climate-disrupting pollution.

But we need to scale these efforts up to a worldwide top priority if we want to see fewer weather-related catastrophes. The U.S. Department of Treasury has said it would no longer fund dangerous coal projects abroad, and other international financial institutions in the U.S. government, like the U.S. Export Import Bank, will issue similar guidances. This momentum must pick up steam, because runaway climate disruption won't begin to subside until fossil fuels are left in the ground.

The situation is not hopeless -- we're moving toward clean energy at a record pace. But we have to do whatever it takes to protect families and communities around the globe from extreme weather fueled by the climate crisis. That's why, as our thoughts go out to the communities and families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, we must urge our leaders to move forward on clean energy and break the chains held by the fossil fuel industries that are taking us backward into a dark place. A world fueled by clean energy with a stable climate is possible. We're on the right path, and we can't afford to slow down.


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