By Rob Hogg
Climate change is not an abstraction. This has real consequences for real people.
In the last two decades, Iowa has suffered more unprecedented extreme weather events.
On June 13, 2008, an unprecedented flood on the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids raised river levels more than 10 feet more than any previous flood, damaging more than 5,000 homes and buildings and causing $ 5 billion in a city of 125,000.
No one was killed in our flood, although one of the members of our church lost his son when he had a heart attack after being cleansed of the flood.
Economic damage was widespread, especially because insurance policies generally ruled out flood damage. Our home was not flooded, but the work on the second floor where I worked was out of the office for more than three months while repairs were being made.
In addition to the economic damage, the flood caused severe emotional pain and trauma.
The woman lost her personal belongings, which she tried to save by putting them on the second floor of her house. The man lost his home, job and church from the floods, all in the same neighborhood. As people cleaned, piles of debris lined the streets, and the smell of mud after the flood was strong.
I didn’t think I would ever experience anything worse.
But on August 10, 2020, the derecho crossed the Iowa. Derecho is a series of thunderstorms that bring harmful strong winds.
Our derecho was over 100 miles long and brought hurricane winds up to 140 miles per hour. Winds of hurricane force lasted nearly an hour in Cedar Rapids. A man was killed when a tree fell on him as he tried to ride his bike to safety. Two others died elsewhere in Iowa.
Cedar Rapids has lost over 60% of its tree canopy. Thousands of buildings were damaged. One of our beautiful old trees fell on and into our house. Most of the city lost electricity. We have not had electricity restored in our house for 11 days.
In all, Iowa suffered $ 11.5 billion in damage from the derech, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called “the most expensive storm in U.S. history.”
Unlike the flood, there was more insurance for the damage done. He did not cover most of the costs of removing the trees, but he helped pay for the renovation of our house. But others – like tenants and refugee families in apartments that have become lifeless – had no insurance and basically lost everything. Poor and marginalized communities suffer the most and are most at risk from climate change.
Even with insurance, there is heart pain and trauma. We only replaced the roof in November, so every time it rained or snowed for three months we collected water dripping through our tarpaulin. We didn’t replace the interior repairs and siding until a year later, and as I write this, we expect the gutters to be replaced this week. I’m holding my thumbs.
It will be decades before the trees we planted replace the lost ones if the new trees survive the current drought and the growing number of invasive pests in Iowa.
Climate catastrophes are all around us, increasing in number and severity. There are so many that it’s hard to remember all the hurricanes, floods and fires that have hit the United States in recent years, let alone those around the world.
When we say that we are called to protect God’s creation and all of us as children of God, this is one snapshot of what is at stake.
The good news is that our relationship with God gives us the freedom, strength, love, and hope to help people affected by climate disasters and to advocate for policies and practices to slow and stop the accumulation of greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere.
Rob Hogg is a member of Christ’s Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids in the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa. He is a member of the delegation of the presiding bishop at the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, which runs from October 31 to November 12..
On September 28, 2016, Rob was visiting with the owner of a house whose house was submerged for the second time in eight years in Shell Rock, Iowa. The Shell Rock River is a tributary of the Cedar River, and reached record levels of flooding in 2016 after 10 inches of rain fell upstream in one day. Climate change is affecting people living in both small and rural towns.
August 22, 2020. Slave’s house with a tarpaulin after the wood that fell on the house during the derecho was removed from the roof. Extreme weather events, fueled by climate change, cause economic hardship and emotional pain, even trauma, to affected people.