Op-ed: Storm surges in NH show our need for climate action

Rebecca Beaulieu (350 New Hampshire)

By Rebecca Beaulieu

January 16, 2024

Coastal New Hampshire is making the news for record-breaking floods caused by January rain. The climate crisis is at our doorstep. This flooding will unfortunately not be the last time we see large swaths of Hampton underwater. So how did we get here?

When I was little I remember huge snowstorms and being outside to shovel the sidewalk, forming gigantic piles of snow towering over my head. I remember sledding down hills that had so much snow on them that you couldn’t get down the hill until you forcibly created a path. In the last five years, we have not seen that kind of snow on the Seacoast. It’s been so rainy and warm this December that I didn’t take my winter boots out of their box until January 7th. Just a few weeks ago the river next to the community trail I often walk down flooded so much that the trail was impassible. 

Rising sea levels, high annual precipitation averages, and increased storm frequencies are a direct result of global climate change. Scientific consensus since the 1970s has been clear that human activities are contributing to greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere – leading to drastic changes in our overall climate and weather patterns. Any New Englander can tell you we have wild weather here and can go from wearing shorts and a t-shirt one day to shoveling snow a few days later, but the last ten years show our extremes are becoming worse. We had record-breaking rain last summer, a lack of snow in December, and the first major snowstorm this January was immediately washed away with a flooding emergency.

What we are experiencing right now is going to get worse. As a global community and country, we are burning more and more fossil fuels and ignoring their negative impacts on our communities and our climate. In the Northeast, around half of our energy comes from fracked gas, which releases large amounts of methane into the atmosphere when we burn it for fuel. We are also home to the last coal-fired power plant in this region, in Bow, New Hampshire. This power plant in one hour releases as much carbon into the atmosphere as the average person does in 26 years. The more we continue to burn fossil fuels that release these greenhouse gasses, the more drastic our climate patterns will become. 

Scientists along with many residents of our state know that fossil fuels are contributing to the crises we see, but we are stalled. This session, the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee already voted down a bill to study what the transition of the coal plant to clean energy could look like. Fossil fuel companies and the politicians they support block legislative efforts to transition these dirty fuels into clean energy. New Hampshire failed year after year to pass any climate action plan or comprehensive emission reduction goals. The NH Department of Environmental Services is currently working on updating the 2009 Climate Action Plan. Still, the state will not be held accountable for meeting the climate goals without support from our representatives. We need to recognize as a community that extreme weather events and climate action are tied. We have a responsibility to protect our communities impacted by extreme flooding. 

Families in Hampton are going to have to make the difficult decision to cope with the increased flooding or move out of town. They should not be left to fend for themselves in this crisis. We can all support our neighbors impacted by flooding by supporting efforts to transition to clean, renewable energy sources.

More and more of our state will be under water as sea levels rise and precipitation events increase. New Hampshire will no longer be a winter skiing destination or relaxing on the beach in the summertime if snow and coastal beaches disappear. We can either get on board with transitioning to clean energy or sacrifice our communities impacted by climate change. Push your local representatives to support climate action, vote for representatives who will, and get involved in organizing for climate justice.

 

Author’s Bio: Rebecca Beaulieu is a writer and Communications Director for 350NH Action, a local climate justice nonprofit. She has a background studying English literature and environmental science and has been a community organizer since college.

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