WASHINGTON (CNS) – Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-USA’s Disaster Services Corp., has become a road warrior.
She has been in the field coordinating the society’s response with local Vincentian councils to powerful, drenching hurricanes in Texas and Florida and ruinous wind-driven wildfires in California. Puerto Rico is next on her itinerary.
In 2016, it was torrential rains that washed out 1,200 homes in West Virginia followed by more flooding from a hurricane that swept up the East Coast from Georgia to Virginia. A year earlier, record precipitation along a stalled frontal boundary caused massive flooding in South Carolina and North Carolina.
Responding to the string of extreme weather events has been a challenge for the society in the affected communities and the society overall.
“The hurricanes and tornadoes, everything seems to be a greater intensity,” Disco-Shearer said. “Instead of 100-year floods, we’re seeing 1,000-year floods.
She expects more of the same in the years ahead based on the findings of climate scientists who say global warming is causing more extreme weather. She is working with the society’s leadership to work with its partners to secure new funding so it can be ready to respond to future extreme events.
Disco-Shearer was one of three people who discussed the effects of a warming planet during an online webinar Nov. 2 sponsored by the Catholic Climate Covenant. She focused on the growing need for the society’s services as extreme weather occurs more frequently.
Paz Artaza-Regan, program manager for the Catholic Climate Covenant, said the webinar was intended to help the Catholic Church respond to “these more frequent and intense storms.”
Presenters included Alan Betts, a Vermont-based climate scientist who has spent more than 40 years studying global weather and climate with scientists and institutions around the world.
Betts years ago concluded that the planet is warming and that humans are the cause of it. He blames humanity’s penchant for burning fossil fuels in large quantities since the mid-19th century.