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Losing our Coveted Trees to Floods

In the great aftermath of major flooding last week here in the Hudson Valley 30 miles north of New York City, towns and villages are recovering from torrential rains that dumped six to seven inches in an already saturated region. Roads dissolved under water. Streams, lakes and rivers overflowed, rising above their highest levels ever seen. New York State declared a state of emergency for several counties and numerous communities.

In my own backyard, which happens to be a good-sized lake, the surging water level sunk docks, covered foot paths, washed out beaches and lakeside recreation areas. Sadly, the flood also forced the nearby 85-year old willow tree into the water, it’s roots wrenched out of the ground forming a raw, chiseled wood sculpture at the water’s edge

Floods are happening all over the world and are a result of an overheated planet which is a direct result of climate change. Decades of research show greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels have raised the Earth’s temperature by about 2.2 Fahrenheit degrees (1.2 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, gases produced by burning fossil fuels, traps natural rising heat radiating from the Earth’s surface causing the planet to warm. Globally we are seeing intense heat waves severely threaten basic human survival.

Efforts to stop using fossil fuels aren’t happening fast enough and if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, temperatures could rise to at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average temperatures according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the water cycle will continue to intensify as the planet warms.

As scientists speculate on the ever changing new normal of future weather patterns, we can still focus on positive signs and new initiatives being taken to eradicate fossil fuel use.The IPCC Sixth Assessment report shows that costs have fallen for key forms of renewable energy and EV (Electric Vehicle) batteries, and adoption of these technologies is on the uptick. Also the U.S. 2022 Inflation Reduction Act offers tax incentives for those EV buyers which has  encouraged companies to ramp up production. Many states are seriously considering  California’s requirement that all new cars and light trucks be zero-emissions by 2035.

When the grandfatherly willow tree was downed into the lake by heavy rain, the sense of loss was unavoidable. Our trees are important in the fight against climate change. According to the Arbor Day Foundation in one year a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange. If we are able to cool the Earth in time, perhaps trees can better withstand heavy rainfalls and perhaps flooding and heat waves will lessen as our planet starts to cool.

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