Nel's New Day

August 19, 2022

The U.S. May Run Short on Water, Food As Well As All Other Commodities

Climate deniers claim that the world has always changed, that the U.S. has no problems. So what if we have severe storms that destroy people and kill people, rising sea levels wiping out coastal structures, excessive heat that kills more people, wildfires exacerbated from drought and heat. Let’s just wait until the “weather” changes, so sayeth these deniers. A question for them is what they will do when they no longer have food and water because of the droughts. And the problem is hitting the entire United States. The western half of the U.S. suffers a drought; the eastern part has severe floods. And parts of the West may have flash floods following the severe drought. 

Seven states in the West are facing the federal government’s reduction of Colorado River water allocations to Arizona and Nevada because they missed the deadline to develop a new water-sharing agreement. Arizona loses 21 percent of its former allocation, and Nevada will be down by 8 percent. The river serves seven states: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming in the Upper Basin and Arizona, California, and Nevada in the lower one.

The agreement was made a century ago when the river had much more water; now the region faces a 30-year drought that may last until 2030, the worst stretch for the region in over a millennium. As the climate warms, the snowpack feeding the 1,450 mile river steadily dimished, and ever-drier soils absorb runoff before it can reach reservoirs. More frequent extreme heat speeds up evaporation. For the first time, Lake Mead, fed by the Colorado River, will be at a Tier 2 shortage in January, 1,050 feet below sea level. The expected level of 3,522 feet at Lake Powell is only 32 feet above an electricity-generating threshold known as the “minimum power pool.” [Lake Powell reservoir after three-fourths of its water disappeared.]

Kyle Roerink, executive director at the Great Basin Water Network, said the breakdown came from parties being focused only a deal benefiting themselves at the expense of others instead of a mutually beneficial agreement. They’re “talking about for legislation, litigation, other tactics to try and get the best deal, they believe, for their respective constituencies.”

Christopher Kuzdas, a senior water program manager with the Environmental Defense Fund, said that not all the water needed to be taken from the system during the past 20 years, but ignoring that possibility brought down the levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Other sources said that states kept drawing water to keep up its portion of the river withdrawals. Republicans in Arizona and Nevada should be grateful to the billions of dollars in drought preparedness provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, a new law that all their GOP representatives opposed. Thanks to Democrats, the two states can share in the $4 billion to rent, buy or save water for the beleaguered basin.

Why should anyone outside those seven states care about their problems? Eighty percent of the Colorado River’s water goes to irrigate 15 percent of the nation’s farmland and produce 90 percent of winter vegetables. There goes the food for the rest of the U.S.

 A new study has mapped the “extreme heat belt” by 2053 where the heat index can reach 125°F at least one day a year. Part of the belt is a three-state swath from Texas to Alabama through Iowa and Illinois into southern Wisconsin. Other parts go north from Florida to southern Pennsylvania, primarily along the coasts and southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. The interactive map is here. The number of people suffering in this belt will rise to 107 million by 2053, but many coastal areas will have the 125°F by 2030. The states most likely to see the greatest growth in dangerous days are Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Florida with the greatest changes primarily in Florida. Many places currently with heat indices above 100°F for over 20 straight days may have 74 consecutive days by 2053. 

The megadrought in the West, worst in 1,200 years, is also causing problems with cattle-raising as pastures wither. Ranchers are forced to decide whether to sell early for less money or pray for rain—and lose everything. Eight-five percent of ranchers are selling part of their herds, and some farmers are even selling their breeding stock. Herds are down by 2.4 percent since last year, a decrease of 750,000 cows and a fall of two million since 2018. Cattle sales jumped to 120 percent in the last two weeks of July above the 2021 levels. Consumers will pay higher prices for meat for at least two more years.

The drought is lowering the level of the massive Ogallala Aquifer stretching underneath most of the Great Plains, much of it growing the protein-rich cattle feed. Over 80 percent of the West is in severe drought this year, up from 20 percent last year, and other three-fourths of farmers have pulled farmland out of production. During the last serious drought in Texas, 2008 to 2011, the state herd fell from 5.1 million to 3.9 million.

Beef and dairy cattle make up 62 percent of the 8.1 gigatons of global greenhouse gas emissions released worldwide by livestock. That means the world’s cattle industry is responsible for more emissions than the U.S. at 4.8 gigatons in 2021.

Chickens and pigs can be raised in captivity, but breeding beef cattle in confinement is difficult. About 27 percent of all cattle sold in the U.S. comes from herds of under 50. These small producers are the hardest hit by the drought. These are the ones liquidating herd sizes, especially because the younger generation doesn’t want to continue the business. As they leave, big business, such as Brazil’s JBS, takes over and charges higher prices which doesn’t go to the farmers and then use the prices as reason to import more beef from countries such as Brazil and Australia. Loss of these businesses destroys an entire chain of businesses from gate and fence installers to large animal veterinarians.

The climate disasters have been building throughout the past few years as the number of “billion-dollar” climate calamities increases. In the past four decades, the U.S. had an average of 7.7 annual billion-dollar disasters, but the annual average jumped to almost in the past five years. The last two years had 22 and 20, respectively with 2021 the seventh consecutive year of ten or more separate billion-dollar disasters. The 2021 cost was estimated $145 billion with almost 700 people killed. More statistics. If the country doesn’t suffer from drought, as in the map above, it may suffer from flooding. The East Coast is subject to losing its land and buildings from rising sea levels. 

A majority of people in the U.S.—71 percent—said their community experienced at least one form of extreme weather in the past year: heat, flooding, drought, wildfires or rising sea levels. These hazards are responsible for worsening 58 infectious diseases such as malaria, hantavirus, cholera, and anthrax. In addition, 233 non-infectious sicknesses such as allergies, asthma, and even animal bites can be connected to these climate hazards. Although the study did not find specific causation, scientists say that the results are a warning about climate and health.

The Supreme Court justices recommended by the Federalist Society and appointed by DDT were purchased by big business, including the Koch brothers and their Americans for Prosperity closely tied to Leonard Leo, Federalist Society co-chair. With the support of Koch’s Republican Attorneys General Association and four Koch-funded entities, the opinion in West Virginia v. the EPA removed the government agency’s ability to make decisions to delay climate change with a congressional law.

The Republicans have decided to focus on inflation as their campaign talking point, hoping people will ignore the myriad problems they have caused for people besides climate change—DDT’s corruption, insurrection, anti-abortion, COVID, etc., etc. But the change in climate is a prime mover of increased prices. In the conservative Hill, David Super uses a loaf of bread to demonstrate how prices are rising across the board.

With the drought cutting back wheat in the dry regions, bakers must find an alternative supply. Oats might have come from a flooded region where half the crop was destroyed. Barley comes from the West, suffering from wildfires. The millet crops might be caught up in tornadoes where it’s stored in silos, and flax might be destroyed in ships downed by hurricanes. Prices go up because the same number of bakers bid for the product cut in half. And that’s just bread which is a prominent staple. People pay more for this one item at the grocery store or more for their meals they eat out. Higher prices for bread can mean higher prices for other food items.

Trouble growing wood and other building materials increase housing costs, and skyrocketing weather-related claims cause insurance companies to sharply raise premiums or deny homeowners coverage. Calamities also cause shortages in habitable areas. Disasters result in higher utility costs from both government and private companies, and transportation prices go up after storms damage bridges and wash out roads. The need for higher prices might be temporary, but businesses figure they can make them permanent and make a higher profit.

Thanks to conservative climate deniers who control the laws in the Senate, the people in the U.S. are on the way to shortages that are faced in non-developed countries from the U.S. rapid depletion of its resources and in the ocean.

April 22, 2022

Earth Day: 2022

Today, April 22, tens of millions of people honor the earth on this 52th anniversary of Earth Day with the theme, “Invest in Our Planet.”

“This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods… together, we must ‘Invest in Our Planet.’” 🗞️

It is also the 56th day of Ukraine’s destruction as Russia focuses on a mission of killing all the civilians, flattening all the buildings, and destroying all the land with missiles, chemical weapons, and the release of radioactivity.

I am saddened by the dual assault on our planet as people ignore the threat of climate warming and have been unable to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, I honor the brave Ukrainians who fight Russian supporters both inside and outside the United States. I honor the courage of Ukrainians who find democracy too important to have Putin’s brutality erase their country.

The sunflower, a symbol of Ukrainian national identity, has become a “global symbol of resistance, unity, and hope,” according to Jennifer Hassan. On February 24, the first day of the Russian invasion, a Ukrainian woman gave sunflower seeds to armed Russian soldiers. She said, “Take these seeds so sunflowers grow here when you die.”

Since then, demonstrators throughout the Western world have used the sunflower to denounce Russian aggression. Europe received sunflowers in the seventeenth century when Spaniards brought the seeds from the New World. In the eighteenth century, Ukrainians ate them and crushed them into oil for cooking, a popular alternative to butter and lard which were prohibited during Lent by the Orthodox Church. By now, Ukraine and Russia provide 70 to 80 percent of global sunflower oil exports. Images of sunflowers are found on clothing, and the blooms are worn in headdresses during celebrations.

Sunflowers—soniashnyk—have long represented peace: in 1996, ministers from Russia, the United States, and Ukraine planted sunflowers at the Pervomaysk missile base to celebrate Ukraine’s nuclear weapon disarmament. At that time, the shared goal for the three nations was “ensuring that our children and our grandchildren will live in peace.” Before that, scientists planted sunflowers, capable of removing toxins from the soil, to remove radioactive elements after the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. Japan planted their sunflowers after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

May the sunflower return to Ukraine in a time of democracy and peace. [Photo by Ann Hubard]

June 25, 2021

Heat Builds Up in Weather, Voting

Over a month ago, conservative columnist Mark Thiessen wrote one of his evidence-free pieces for the Washington Post, this one about how the U.S. has no problem with drought. He cherry-picked a few facts, including this one from “NOAA figures”—“the past fifty years have been slightly wetter than average” in the United States. 

The new administration recognizes the serious problems of climate change, but those clinging to the unscientific beliefs of the old one are deeply entrenched in denial. They won’t associate the abnormal June heat waves with climate change, but fence sitters may develop an understanding for the seriousness of the problem.

For the second year in a row, Russia saw record-breaking heat north of the Arctic Circle as the country heats up twice as fast as the rest of the world. The land surface temperature in Siberia rose as high as 118 degrees on June 20. The result is record-low sea ice along Siberia’s coastline. Some of the areas are warmer by 16 degrees and severe wildfires burned through Siberia in the past two years.

Last September, a huge Greenland glacier, twice the size of Manhattan and the second largest in the world behind Antarctica, disintegrated. Melting ice in the next eight decades will cause sea levels to rise by over three feet, erasing beaches and coastal properties.

Last summer and fall marked the least area covered by sea ice ever recorded in the Arctic Ocean, unprecedented in at least 1,000 years. The drop has disastrous effects for the planet beyond the sea rise causing storm surges, flooding, and infrastructure costs throughout the world. With higher pH than freshwater, seawater from collapsing ice sheets causes ocean acidification impacting fisheries. In one example, over 80 percent of northeast Arctic cod may be eliminated, dropping the economy from a catch from $285 million to $36 million in eight decades.  

Snow and ice are part of the circular cooling of the earth: less ice, more energy absorbed by land and water which is then translated into heat, blocking an increase of ice. Melting permafrost releases carbon dioxide and methane, accelerating global warming, and diseases from past centuries are released from the thawed permafrost.

Before the end of June, a second heat wave is hitting the western United States. The one last week in the Southwest moved east, and at least 4,000 new temperatures were set this year, including every square inch of Arizona, according to the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. Palm Springs (CA) hit 123 degrees, and Phoenix and other Arizona areas were at least 120 degrees.

Like the current heat wave hitting the Northwest this coming weekend, a heat dome formed by high pressure in the upper atmosphere has put a lid on the area, trapping the hot air. The air sinks down, compresses, and heats up more while the dome blocks clouds and storms which otherwise would provide relief from the sun’s rays. The feedback loop creates longer and more intense heat waves. Temperatures in the next three to seven days will be unusually high—for example, 113 degrees in Portland at a time when normal June highs are in the mid-70s.

The result of this extreme weather can be death from drought, wildfires, and lack of refrigeration. Normal storm systems can’t get under the dome, lack of rain dries up reservoirs, crops suffer, and forests and shrubbery kindle fires. People end up with a shortage of food and water if they don’t burn up in their homes.

With less flow from the Colorado River, Lake Mead (right), supplying water for 25 million people in three Southwestern states and Mexico, is at 36 percent capacity, the lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s. Arizona will lose one-fifth of its water allotment. The Folsom Lake near Sacramento (CA) is so low that a plane from a 1986 crash appeared. 

It’s not summer yet, and Mark Thiessen says our only choice is to “adapt.” Yet conservatives don’t want any adaptation which would requires conservation of resources, infrastructure redesign, and energy grids that don’t fail with the slightest provocation, as currently in Texas. Ranchers are selling their sheep and cattle early, and dairy farmers are selling their cattle because they can’t come up with the daily 50 gallons of water each animal needs. Farmers are leaving portions of their land fallow. The result is higher prices from less supply. Adaptation will be difficult.

Another heated problem this summer is voting rights. A divided 6th Circuit Court panel replaced a Tennessee law prohibiting first-time voters from using absentee ballots.  

The decision overturned a lower ruling. The Tennessee Supreme Court had permitted anyone with a “special vulnerability to Covid-19” to vote via absentee ballot in the 2020 election. The NAACP argued that the situation can be repeated, but the judicial majority called the pandemic a “unique factual situation.” The judge, a George W. Bush appointment, was joined by a Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointee. In her dissent, the third judge, appointed by Bill Clinton, accused her colleagues of “haphazardly wielding the law and the facts.”

Following the insistence that fraud stole the election from DDT, Michigan Senate Oversight Committee investigated the election in their state for almost eight months. The GOP-majority group, led by a Republican, issued a 55-page report finding absolutely “no evidence of widespread or systemic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election.” According to the report, “Citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan.” Every Republican on the committee adopted he report.

Falsehoods debunked by the GOP investigation:

  • Dead people voted;
  • Hundreds of thousands of unsolicited absentee ballots were sent to Michigan voters;
  • A machine error switched votes in Antrim County;
  • Tabulators at the TCF Center in Detroit, where absentee ballots were counted, were connected to the internet which allowed tampering by outside parties.
  • “Fractional voting;”
  • Over 100 percent voter turnout in any Michigan precinct.  

The irony of the investigative report is that it supports anti-voting bills such as preventing the secretary of state from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications to registered voters. Proposed GOP bills also want more GOP poll workers in Detroit and canvassers to be present during the process as a stall to counting ballots as well as locking drop boxes before polling locations close. The Michigan House has passed bills for voter ID and signature matching. Other introduced legislation creates an “audit board” to hire an outside firm to review ballots, voting machines, and poll books, targeting the Democratic stronghold of Detroit.

The state’s GOP precinct delegates have called on the party leadership to fire Michigan GOP Executive Director Jason Cabel Roe because he told Politico last year that “the election wasn’t stolen” and only DDT was to blame for his loss.

Regarding dead people voting, the committee probed the only two claims they found. One was a clerical error; the other was a woman who died after she cast her vote but a few days before the election. A video purportedly showing late-night “ballot dumps” was of a news photographer moving his gear, not ballots. Despite the report showing no fraud in the election, Republicans are pushing almost 40 anti-voting bills.  DDT’s supporters rallied on the state Capitol steps calling on the GOP for an audit of the presidential election, exonerated by the legislative Republicans. Over 250 election audits in the state affirmed the results submitted to the Electoral College, including a human error in Antrim County quickly corrected. DDT carried Antrim by 61 percent. The report also called on the AG to investigate “utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends.”

In Arizona, the counters finished looking at 2.1 million ballots, and the process has turned to the 70,000-80,000 tally sheets, verifying the data. Cyber Ninjas’ counters have compiled 15 subtotals, points of comparison, with official totals for each candidate, according to the leadership of the Ninjas’ CEO Doug Logan. Official 2020 election records used 10,341 subtotals as its benchmark, a spreadsheet of all votes. GOP Senate President Karen Fann is still debating whether to do another count as comparison to the hand counts from the past two months. Don’t expect any results until at least August.

Several prominent Republicans in Arizona, once approving the “fraudit” fiasco, now oppose it. Conservative talk show host, who initially approved the idea, says the Arizona audit is a disaster for the GOP. He said:

“If we are going to let this audit define the Republican Party, which we are doing right now in Arizona, I think it’s going to be big trouble.”

According to a QAnon conspiracies, a GOP Maricopa Supervisor, Clinton Hickman, fed shredded ballots to the chickens at his family’s egg farm. One of his barns burned down, killing 162,000 chickens, leading to the false accusation that it was his way of destroying ballots.

In a Monmouth University poll, only 33 percent of people in the U.S. see the project as legitimate, and even they have no evidence for their belief. In the survey, 57 percent agreed the audits were partisan-based with the goal of questioning the election’s validity. Forty percent think this type of audits weaken democracy, twice as many as those who believe it strengthens it. Another 50 percent of respondents think voter disenfranchisement from red state laws is a bigger issue.

April 23, 2021

Biden Changes View of Climate Change

Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, and the Muldrow Glacier is surging down Denali, Alaska’s highest mountain, at 50 to 100 times faster than a normal rate for the past 60 years. Only a few mountain glaciers ever surge because they grow at the top areas and diminish at the bottom. With climate change, glaciers melt faster, keeping ice from accumulating as melting occurs farther upslope. These glaciers just melt away. Yet in some parts of the world, climate change increases the risk of surging if rainfall increase creates a more slippery ground. Another Alaska Glacier collapsed in both 2013 and 2015 from extremely warm temperatures. Mountain glaciers have lost at least six trillion tons of ice in fewer than three decades.

Four years ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) dumped the U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement as the vast majority of countries of the world developed plans to reverse climate change. Although the federal government refused to take any action, many U.S. cities and other municipalities continued the work of the Paris deal. Elected as president last November, Joe Biden promised to rejoin the agreement with the statement, “America is back!” He honored the 2021 Earth Day theme, “Restore Our Earth,” by calling together 40 world leaders in a virtual summit with a major goal of cutting back greenhouse gas emissions. Biden topped them by pledging the U.S. would reduce the 2005 levels by 50 to 52 percent by 2030. Even that goal may fall short of keeping the temperature down.

Although conservatives complain that China is much worse than the U.S. in causing climate change, the U.S. is the biggest emitter of carbon and second only to China, with a population four times that of the U.S., in emitting greenhouse gases. The next deadline for U.S. movement to make plans for turning around climate change is at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, scheduled in Glasgow a year after Biden’s election.

Biden’s speech focused on jobs in transforming the nation’s economy toward clean energy and electric vehicles, but he needs congressional help to meet his goal. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is looking toward the private sector to help solve the problem of improving climate change with the economy, and many huge fossil fuel companies have quietly invested in clean energy because they see the writing on the wall. Renewable energy costs are now cheaper than fossil fuels.

Supporters of the coal industry are griping about Biden’s target. The 191 plants still operating, down from the beginning of DDT’s four-year term, may be almost gone by 2030. Fifty coal plants closed during DDT’s first two years, and the pandemic wiped out another 50. Even the Coal Mine Workers representing coal miners support Biden’s infrastructure package with its clean energy standard.

Last year, the increase of tropical deforestation of 12 percent from 2019 doubled the annual tailpipe emissions of cars in the U.S. a well as helping cause the pandemic. A new coalition plans to pay $1 billion to countries preventing this deforestation.

Republicans in the U.S. have fought to continue climate change by denying science. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has produced a video about the Energy Innovation Agenda, “dozens of bills and solutions” in opposition to Biden’s agenda. Part of their program is simply planting more trees and capturing carbon while opposing the Paris climate agreement. With 40 other Republicans, McCarthy plans to keep fossil fuels as the GOP focus of U.S. economy.

Biden’s summit may oppose coal, but it waffles about natural gas, a problem with methane production trapping heat in the atmosphere. His vague fact sheet doesn’t clarify how the U.S. will reduce “methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and other potent short-lived climate pollutants.”

Foreign leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von Leyden, alienated by DDT, warmly welcomed Biden as he works to move the U.S. back into international leadership. Biden’s steps to reverse DDT’s actions damaging the climate and environment include revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit and declare moratoria on new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands. He also touts his infrastructure plan to make electric vehicle more affordable, incentivize electric vehicle charging stations, retrofit buildings, replace lead pipes, and modernize the nation’s electrical grid.

Sad to say, Democrats have always been in the forefront of trying to save the earth while conservatives have consistently blocked the effort. Wisconsin’s new Democratic senator Gaylord Nelson began his Washington career in 1963 energized by Rachel Carson’s bestselling book Silent Spring that addressed the disastrous effect of pesticide use. President John F. Kennedy was receptive to Nelson’s proposal of a “conversation tour,” part of his eleven-state trip in five days, culminating with his assassination on November 22, 1963, but largely ignored environmental issues.

Seeing the 1969 oil spill aftermath in California, Nelson accelerated his push to raise environmental awareness and gained supporters for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, marked by rallies and reflections. Nelson focused on young activists, especially at colleges, for organizers and thousands of field volunteers. A graduate student, Denys Hayes, helped coordinate speeches, concerts, demonstrations, fundraisers, nature walks—even mock trials for polluting objects such as an old Chevrolet executed by a sledgehammer. The car did live on in an art class. In New York City, 22,000 people in Union Square heard Paul Newman and Mayor John Lindsay. Hayes’ effort expanded Earth Day to 180 countries and continues to be a leader in environmental and energy policies. 

Conservative groups such as the John Birch Society claimed Earth Day honored the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Lenin’s birth. Progressives complained the day distracted from protests against the Vietnam War by concentrating on “litterbugs.” Others criticized corporations with bad environmental records that could appear righteous once a year.

Yet Earth Day concerns led to environmental legislative reform. Within a year, 25 percent of the public agreed protection of the environment was an important goal, compared to almost no one two years earlier. By the end of 1970, President Richard Nixon approved the Environmental Protection Agency. New legislation included the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act—all laws that DDT tried to erase.

In 1990, 200 million people in 141 nations were involved in Earth Day; ten years later, the emerging Clean Energy movement spread to 184 countries and 5,000 environmental organizations. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Gabon (Africa) experienced a traveling drum chain. Over one billion people participated in Earth Day activities. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day.

Astronaut Stuart Roosa had taken hundreds of tree seeds—loblolly pine, sycamore, sweetgum, redwood, Douglas fir, etc.—on the Apollo 14 moon mission that orbited the moon 34 times in the Kitty Hawk. Although the containers broke open, most of the seeds were successfully planted and cultivated around national monuments as well as other sites around the globe. In 2009, NASA planted a second generation “moon” sycamore on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum and American Forests in Washington, D.C.  

This morning, I admired the bees on my blueberries. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen honey bees in our yard—perhaps not since I watched a new neighbor spraying Roundup on his yard. With all the publicity about cancer, he’s slowly changed his patterns, first no longer burning his steaks outside with the smell wafting over the shrubs and then no longer using chemical pesticides on his lawn.

Bees are vital to our food supply: they pollinate over a third of the food supply and 90 percent of wild plants. In addition, bees pollinate over 16 percent of flowering plant species and produce over $130 million worth of raw honey each year. Since 1990, over 25 percent of managed honeybees in the U.S. have disappeared. Global warming may affect pathogens such as viruses and fungi destroying bee colonies. Atmospheric radiation from cell phones and wireless communication towers can adversely affect bees.

Massachusetts has become the first state to restrict pesticides—neonicotinoids—killing bees and other pollinators by removing them from retail shelves. These products get into every cell of the plant, into the soil, into the water supply, and into the pollen and nectar that bees eat. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t go into effect for another 15 months, but it’s a start without DDT.

The impetus for Silent Spring is the silence caused by the disappearance of birds because their food supply, insects, is killed by pesticides. With laws preventing pesticides and work to reverse climate change, the world can continue to hear singing birds, grow food and flowers, stop cities from flooding because of melting glaciers, and … and… 

February 16, 2021

Climate Change Creates Havoc in the U.S.

The biggest story in the past few days has been the weather. In just the United States, about 150 million people—almost half the population—was under winter storm warnings. Texas may have been the worst problems across nation with more than 4.2 million customers losing power, many of them for extended periods of time. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for the red state so that FEMA can provide help.

On Fox network, anti-Democrat and anti-Biden Tucker Carlson declared wind energy was completely responsible for the electricity shortage because the “windmills froze.” He called wind turbines “fashion accessories” while ignoring their success in freezing areas such as Iowa and Denmark. Wind turbines help power thousands of homes in the interior of Alaska during the winter as well as in the Baltic, northern Scotland, and other cold areas.

Authorities explain that rolling blackouts to spread the power across more customers became necessary after natural gas, a fossil fuel, froze inside pipelines not made for the current weather conditions in Texas. Compressors for the pipelines and coal piles froze as gauges and instruments did at natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants. In some areas such as Dallas, the temperature as low as 4 degrees Fahrenheit was lower than Anchorage (AK). Plummeting temperatures caused spikes in use of electricity, leading to outages for unknown lengths of time. With the severe shortage of power, companies prioritized gas for heating homes and businesses instead of generating electricity, leaving people with electric furnaces, 60 percent of the population, in the cold with no electricity. Pipes will freeze because the shortage of electricity means no running water. Cell phone service is disappearing because backup generators at towers are freezing or running out of fuel or both.”

Meanwhile wholesale prices for natural gas went up as much as 4,000 percent. In northern Texas, the cost of a megawatt-hour went from an average of $18 to $300; Houston saw an increase in megawatt hour from $22 to $9,000. The increase in price was partly responsible for the lack of electricity: power management “shed load”—cut off customers—instead of dealing with the cost spikes.

A serious issue in Texas is its insistence on operating its own power grid, managed by the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), for 90 percent of the state’s electricity serving 26 million customers. Texas is the largest oil, natural gas, and wind energy producer in the country. Outside Texas, power company revenues pay to have generators on call during times of high demand, Texas electricity customers pay only for the power actually provided. Prices are lower during normal times, but the grid reliability suffers during times of spiking electricity demand.

Daniel Cohan, a Rice associate professor of environmental engineering, call ERCOT “an island.” In desperate circumstances, the state has nowhere to go to more energy, and the state hasn’t maintained its grid. Ed Hirs, an energy fellow in the department of economics at the University of Houston, said, “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”

The map (left) shows the widespread liability of a separate grid with lack of regulation. 

ERCOT’s predictions for the winter, using past winters, assumed it had sufficient resources and expected to lose about 8,600 megawatts in the winter for a peak demand of 58,000 megawatts. Instead, 34,000 megawatts went offline at the same time as a peak of 69,000 megawatts in the storm.

Texas built its own grid after the 1935 Federal Power Act regulated interstate electricity sales. ERCOT operates outside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and assumes natural gas will always be available. Instead the liquid froze. As of Monday afternoon, over three-fourths of ERCOT’s gigawatts offline were from gas and coal. Yet publicity blames the wind and solar energy while using the current chaos as an excuse to raise utility rates. Ten years ago, when fossil fuel power underperformed, the conservatives falsely called the outages “a direct consequence of the Obama administration’s agenda to lay siege to the coal industry.” In that decade, Texas drillers have burned off massive quantities of natural gas–$750 billion worth in just 2018—instead of using it for the grid.

What Tucker Carlson doesn’t know—or refuses to admit:

  • Wind turbine outages are responsible for less than 13 percent of Texas’ power shortages.
  • ERCOT predicted wind turbines would produce only 10 percent of the state’s winter electricity; less than half the share of 22.9 percent in the summer.
  • Over 80 percent of the power shortfall came from problems at coal- and gas-fired plants.
  • During the power shortage this week, wind turbines exceeded expectations because of the winds generated by the storm spinning the blades faster than usual.

As of Tuesday evening, the weather has killed at least 25 people in the U.S. from tornadoes, fires, car crashes, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc. In Louisiana, a man died after he fell on ice and hit his head. The windchill went from Canada into Mexico, and snow fell on the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Snow covered over 73 percent of mainland U.S., the largest area since records began in 2003. All except three of the 48 mainland states had snow.

Delays in COVID-19 vaccine shipments and deliveries slowed the distribution as did the inability of people to get to vaccination sites. Medical personnel frantically looked for people to vaccinate after power and generators failed. The 2,000 record lows included -26F in Sioux Falls (SD) and -38F in Minnesota, and at least 20 cities experienced their coldest weather in history. More records are expected. 

Over 2,700 U.S. flights were canceled with 800 at Dallas-Fort Worth and 700 in Houston. Another 1,300 flights were delayed. In just Alabama, 100 school systems closed. San Antonio canceled all its flights.

The Dallas Stars postponed a National Hockey League game against the Nashville Predators, and the Houston Chronicle failed to print the paper after the plant lost power, something that didn’t even happen during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Abilene (TX) shut off water services at all three water treatment plants. At -16F, Tulsa (OK) had 113 broken water line since Sunday, and a parked patrol car couldn’t move because of frozen water around its wheels.

In Oregon, the coast stayed warm and wet, but much of the rest of the state was hit. About 330,000 people lost electricity, the largest number in recorded history. Heavy snow and ice brought down trees and branches, and the resulting blocked storm drains may cause flooding. Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order preventing price-gouging in nine Oregon counties because of unusual increases in lodging rates for temporary stays while power is out in homes.

Carlson’s next false claim may be that record low temperatures prove the fallacy of global warming. The rapid heating of the Arctic, however, pushes the North Pole’s cold air further south. It’s all part of climate change. Winter storms have been strongly increasing in the U.S. Northeast since 2008 as Arctic has heated up at a rate over twice the world’s average. Cold air around the North Pole, an area of low pressure tightly circulating during winter like a spinning top, is moving because of interference to the jet stream, strong winds at lower elevations than the polar vortex. Arctic warming causes a shift in the jet stream which then hits the polar vortex. Judah Cohen, the director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, said, “Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air.” In the past month, Europe has also seen huge gusts of snow.

The storm will likely continue across the nation on Wednesday with a return to average or above-average temperatures within seven to ten days. Wednesday, however, the sun will be out at my house on the Oregon Coast.

One bright spot: The United States no longer blocks assistance from states based on their politics. Biden promised unity, and the red state of Texas was the first to receive federal assistance. He made a call to red state governors Greg Abbott (R-TX), John Bel Edwards (D-LA), Andy Beshear (D-KY), Laura Kelly (D-KS), Bill Lee (R-TN), Tate Reeves (R-MS), and Kevin Stitt (R-OK). The call repeated that his administration is ready to answer requests for federal assistance and deploy federal emergency resources to help people in the storm.

August 8, 2019

Plant a Tree, Hug a Bee

Filed under: Climate change,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:03 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The reign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has badly split Republicans’ belief systems. While much of the media has concentrated on DDT’s enablers, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has moved to the center since she started her column over 30 years ago in Orlando (FL). This one from late July resonated with me:

Sometimes big problems can be solved simply.

At the moment, our biggest problem — climate change — can be ended by simply planting trees. OK, so a trillion trees, according to a Swiss study published earlier this month in the journal Science. But how hard is that, really?

An equally serious and related problem is disappearing bees. Those cute little black-and-yellow-robed buzzers are essential to our survival, but our pesticides, fertilizers and climate change are killing them along with the insects we hate. Without bees, our ecosystems would collapse, and thus our food supply.

Over the top? Apocalyptic? Let’s just say, no. This is reality, and we have the means to change it: Plant trees, save bees. Since bees also like flowers, let’s go ahead and make America beautiful again. An emerging theory to combat crime in some parts of the country is called “busy streets.” Research has shown how simple cosmetic changes to urban communities — such as planting flowerbeds — can help reduce violence. And improve a city’s aroma to boot.

Saving bees and trees by planting with purpose would kill two birds, so to speak. If this sounds like a modern version of the Emerald City of Oz, I have no problem with that. Bees love poppies, which, though they provide no nectar, are an excellent source of pollen. That’s nothing to sneeze about, by the way.

Most people know that trees are good for them. They absorb CO2 (carbon dioxide), thus purifying the air for our breathing pleasure. Carbon dioxide is also one of the main greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to rising temperatures and climate change.

Estimates are that about 15% of emissions come from deforestation. Trees also curb other harmful gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, again releasing pure oxygen into the air. If the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 150 million hectares of forests were lost, it would generate about three times the world’s total annual emissions in 2012.

But scientists, including Thomas Crowther, a co-author of the trillion-tree study, were quick to point out that planting trees alone wouldn’t work. And how does one go about planting a trillion trees? And where should they be planted?

Although tree-planting is a simple solution — effective and cheaper than any other remedies currently in circulation — it isn’t a simple matter to plant trees helter-skelter. A forest in the wrong place could have detrimental effects by upsetting the ecological balance.

But this seems a relatively easy obstacle to clear.

The countries with the most land available for building forests are Russia, China, Canada, Australia, Brazil — and the United States. The Switzerland-based researchers found that adding 1.2 trillion more trees would reverse 10 years’ worth of harmful emissions. Over the decades, Crowther says those new trees would absorb about 200 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

Several countries have signed up for reforestation, including the United States, which has seen an increase in its forestland, thanks in part to the Forest Service’s tree-planting initiatives. But we have to figure that the wreath of rainforests that fully wrapped around the globe until relatively recently was surely there for good reason. Satellite images show that the Amazon rainforest — the world’s largest — is disappearing at the rate of one and a half soccer-field-sized parcels per minute. What such decimation means to the planet’s future can’t be good — unless ridding the world of humans is Earth’s ultimate survival measure.

No trees, no birds, no bugs, no bees, no food, no humans. That’s pretty simple, too.

This past winter, a record share — 40% — of honey-bee colonies in the United States died, but bees aren’t the only ones disappearing. Forty percent of all the world’s insects are in decline, according to another recent study, leading scientists to declare that Earth is experiencing the Sixth Great Extinction. Nobody likes bugs — until they’re gone and their purposes finally appreciated.

Insects nourish birds and fish, serenade us to sleep. Animals pollinate 87% of flowering plant species. If current trends continue, there may be no insects by 2119, with one likely exception — the indestructible cockroach, whose sole purpose is apparently to recycle our messes, thus guaranteeing its survival after all else is gone.

March 17, 2019

Climate: Youth Take Over Adult Responsibilities

Last October, a UN report on climate warned of catastrophic consequences in ten years just before the Paradise (CA) fire that killed 85 people and destroyed over 15,000 buildings. The United States is the biggest contributor to climate change, and 71 percent of people in the U.S. believe that they have experienced climate change. Yet almost half the members of Congress—over half in the Senate—are climate change deniers, with a focus on destroying the Green New Deal by claiming it is socialism.

Only five percent of people in the U.S. think that climate change can be reversed, but young people don’t follow that belief. One teenager started protesting outside the Swedish parliament last summer, and last Friday her movement to fight climate change went global when hundreds of thousands of students in 123 countries and 1,700 locations participated in the International Youth Climate Strike by leaving schools to demand action. Greta Thunberg [below center], the 16-year-old Swedish activist who inspired the strikes, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Other young people worked with her through social media to organize the rallies and then marched.

The group’s mission:

We, the youth of America, are striking because decades of inaction has left us with just 11 years to change the trajectory of the worst effects of climate change, according to the Oct 2018 UN IPCC Report. We are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis. We are striking because marginalized communities across our nation—especially communities of color, disabled communities, and low-income communities—are already disproportionately impacted by climate change. We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change. With our futures at stake, we call for radical legislative action to combat climate change and its countless detrimental effects on the American people. We are striking for the Green New Deal, for a fair and just transition to a 100% renewable economy, and for ending the creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure. Additionally, we believe the climate crisis should be declared a national emergency because we are running out of time.

Their demands include renewable energy, no additional fossil fuel infrastructure, a national emergency on climate change, compulsory education on climate change, clean water, emission standards and benchmarks, and all government decisions based on scientific research.

In the United States, the Youth Climate Strike group, founded and directed by three young women from Colorado, New York, and Minnesota, helped organize strikes in over 100 cities across the country.

When 12-year-old Haven Coleman missed a math tutoring session while she was on the phone planning the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, her teacher said, “You better get your priorities together.” Most of the time, Coleman schedules her protests early in the mornings or during lunch. In conjunction with 40 other countries, over 300 people in the U.S. have agreed to lead strikes in their cities on March with events confirmed in 28 states to urge politicians to stem the effects of the “climate crisis.” When she was asked about the reason for her activism, she said, “We can stop the worst effects, so why shouldn’t I try and save all you adults?” She also said, “I’m not going to leave my future in the hands of people who aren’t doing anything.”

Coleman inspired Isra Hirsi, 16, [right] to get involved. The daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar (R-MN), involved in climate activism with the youth-led coaltion of organizations Minnesota Can’t Wait, said, “It is my future, it is the younger ones’ future, and it’s less the older ones’ future.” Over 18 months ago, Hirsi started to learn about environmental racism and injustices in places such as Flint (MI) where people still suffer from lead-contaminated water caused by faulty political decisions and not yet corrected. Her friend Maddy Fernands, the group’s national press director, expressed optimism about their actions:

“It’s the young kids, the kindergartners, the high schoolers, the scientists, [who] are saying you’re doing something that’s wrong. [And by doing that,] people will start to react. It’ll become politically unpopular to not support that sort of coalition of people.”

The third co-founder of the U.S. youth strike, 13-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor, [left] started her weekly climate strike in front of the UN Headquarters last December despite the polar vortex weather. Like Thunberg, she was alone. With her asthma, Villaseñor couldn’t go outside on a visit to family in Northern California without feeling “really sick” because of the Camp Fire. When she returned home to New York, she started her research and discovered a story about Thunberg’s speech at the 2018 United Nations COP24 climate conference in Poland and her call to action. Last Friday, she was joined by other young people when she returned to her weekly sojourn.

An excerpt from the article that she and Thunberg wrote for Common Dreams:

“Scientists have also shown us that burning fossil fuels is “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health”. Nine out of every 10 children around the world are breathing dangerous air. Our lives are being compromised before we are born. Toxic particles from exhaust fumes pass through the lungs of pregnant women and accumulate in the placenta. The risk of premature birth, low birth weight and cognitive dysfunction this causes is a public health catastrophe. Pollution from diesel vehicles is stunting the growth of our lungs, leaving us damaged for life. Toxic air from burning fossil fuels is choking not only our lungs but our hopes and dreams.

“And the worst effects of climate change are disproportionately felt by our most vulnerable communities. This is not just about cutting down emissions, but about equity – the system we have right now is failing us, working only for the rich few. The luxury so few of us enjoy in the global north is based on the suffering of people in the global south….

“When our house is burning we cannot just leave it to the children to pour water on the flames – we need the grownups to take responsibility for sparking the blaze in the first place. So for once, we’re asking grownups to follow our lead: we can’t wait any longer.

“This movement had to happen. And now, you adults have a choice.”

At the age of nine, Thunberg developed a passion for climate action and gave up flying on airplanes three years ago because of their carbon emissions. An introvert with Aspergers, Thunberg overcame her crippling depression and fear of speaking before groups to communicate her message. When UK Prime Minister accused the walkouts of wasting lesson time, Thunberg tweeted:

“That may well be the case. But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse.”

Other young people have demanded action on climate change by suing the U.S. government for violating its obligation to current and future generations in its failure to preserve a clean atmosphere. Our Children’s Trust lawsuit has 21 plaintiffs, one of them as young as eight when the suit was first filed in 2015. The case has been on the edge of being dismissed several times, but presently it’s on fast-track scheduling by the 9th Circuit Court after the Supreme Court dismissed the federal government’s request for a stay.

Another youth environment group,, came from a group of seven university students abs environmental activist Bill McKibben in 2008. He said that today’s youth will be forced to live almost their entire life with the consequences of adults’ lack of action on climate change.

After young people confronted Sen. Diane Feinstein for not supporting the Green New Deal, many Republicans, including Meghan McCain on The View, accused Democrats of using “children” as political “props.” Last Friday’s youth strike to protest inaction on climate change may discourage this ploy to silence young people. The “children” who met with Feinstein are members of the climate group Youth vs. Apocalypse, a young people-led organization under the umbrella of the Bay Area’s chapter of The leader, Isha Clarke, was invited to speak at a rally organized by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activist organization, and joined activists to meet with Feinstein in her office. [visual]

The latest terrifying report about climate change came out of the UN Environment Program last week. Without rapid deep pollution cuts, Arctic winter temperatures will rise up to 9 degrees F within 30 years and another 7 degrees in the next 30 years. Release of the trapped carbon results in this dangerous feedback loop. The disaster will mean far more extreme weather in the United States that experienced recently as well as rapid sea level rise from melting Greenland ice sheets.

The Christian bible orders Christian to care for the planet. Conservative evangelicals might want to consider that when they support climate deniers who care only about lining their own pockets.

November 25, 2018

Climate Report Projects Disaster with DDT’s Policies

Filed under: Climate change — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM

The U.S. government tried to bury a disastrous government climate report this past week by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving. CNN aided and abetted the debacle by allowing twice-failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum to spread his toxic misinformation about climate change on a network that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) claims is “fake news.” When Santorum speaks, DDT is right.

CNN paid Santorum to accuse scientists knowledgeable about climate change of being “driven by money” and praised DDT for burying the government-funded report. He grins when he is told, “California was literally burning last week. This is not normal.” At least 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the last century’s climate change is “extremely likely” due to human activities, but Santorum collects money for disagreeing.

Every four years, Congress requires the National Climate Assessment—the most comprehensive scientific study thus far, describing the effects of climate change on the U.S. economy, public health, coastlines, and infrastructure. DDT’s political appointees wanted to water down the 1,656-page findings by 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies, but doing so would violate the law. Instead, they released it on Black Friday with the hopes that no one would notice its conclusions.

Climate change can reduce ten percent of the U.S. GDP, over double that of the recession of 2008. Already the growing disaster has increased water scarcity in dry areas, drenching downpours in wet regions, and more recurring severe heat waves and wildfires. To slow down climate change, President Obama’s policy, the Clean Power Plan, tried to cut planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants and helped broker the Paris Agreement.

Climate change costs by the end of the century: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise, and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century. Damaging weather cost the U.S. nearly $400 billion since 2015, and extreme heat could cost over one-half billion labor hours by 2100 in just the Southeast.

Solutions to slow climate change: A price such as taxes or fees on greenhouse gas emissions, government regulations on greenhouse pollution, and government funding on clean-energy research.

Affects on regions: droughts curbing hydropower and increasingly limited water supplies in the Southwest, coastal flooding and erosion from loss of sea ice in Alaska, greater flooding in the Midwest that destroys crops and can shut down nuclear power plants as it did in 2011, more frequent wildfires in the Southeast, saltwater-tainted drinking water in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, death from heat waves, and increased disease outbreaks. This interactive map shows the increase in heat throughout the U.S. Since I was born, the number of days over 90 degrees in my hometown has increased by about 8 percent; by the end of the century, the number will have increased by over another 50 percent.

Trade disruptions: Shuttering factories in the world, including the United States, from extreme weather events caused by import and export prices. For example, extreme 2011 flooding in Thailand doubled hard drive prices from Western Digital, a U.S. company producing 60 percent of hard drives for companies such as Apple, HP, and Dell.

Agricultural risks: Declines in crop yields and quality throughout the world from rising temperatures, drought, wildfires on rangelands, heavy downpours, and extreme heat accompanied by problems with livestock health.

The Guardian quoted these pieces from the report:

“[The] earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future.”

Average sea levels along the US coast have increased by around 9 inches since the early 20th century as the oceans have warmed and land ice has melted.

Fisheries, tourism, human health and public safety are being “transformed, degraded or lost due in part to climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise and higher numbers of extreme weather events.”

Wildfires have burned at least 3.7 million acres in the U.S. in all but three years from 2000 to 2016. “More frequent and larger wildfires, combined with increasing development at the wildland-urban interface portend increasing risks to property and human life.”

More than 100 million people in the U.S. live in places with poor air quality, and climate change will “worsen existing air pollution levels.” Increased wildfire smoke risks heightening respiratory and cardiovascular problems, while the prevalence of asthma and hay fever is also likely to rise.

Major groundwater supplies have declined over the last century, with this decrease accelerating since 2001. “Significant changes in water quantity and quality are evident across the country,” the report finds.

Climate change will “disrupt many areas of life” by hurting the US economy, affecting trade and exacerbating overseas conflicts. Low-income and marginalized communities will be worst hit.

What DDT is doing with climate change:

  • Promotes planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plans.
  • Suppresses alternative renewable energy sources.
  • Pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, supported by almost all countries in the world.
  • Cut back the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Ended the current moratorium on coal mining leases.
  • Fast-tracked new fossil fuel proposals and supported new fossil fuel infrastructure. This includes opening up almost 77 acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling.
  • Eliminated regulations including President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
  • Dropped a requirement for mining companies to prove they had enough funds to clean up the pollution they cause.
  • Auctioned off land for fracking.
  • Signed legislation to open up Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling,
  • Plans to use taxpayer money to keep coal power stations open.
  • Said that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to attack U.S. manufacturing.
  • Appointed climate change sceptics and denying advisers and Cabinet members from the dirty-energy industry.
  • Ordered the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, an action temporarily stopped by the courts.
  • Ridiculed the idea of climate change because of the Northeastern cold snap. (Think about Jim Inhoff (R-OK) carrying a snowball onto the Senate floor as proof against climate change.)

Over a month ago, DDT was asked about the climate report from the United Nations. He had no answer except for wanting to know “who drew it.” That was the end of any comment from DDT regarding the scientific findings from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A week later he did comment during a 60 Minutes interview about climate change, “I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again.”

The document states:

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

White House spokesman Raj Shah used the “changing climate” excuse for the upcoming disaster while deputies of former EPA director removed the above conclusions about human influence from its websites earlier this year. The agency removed pages existing for years that provided information about scientific causes of global warming, consequences, and methods of mitigation and/or adaption. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management no longer provides access to documents assessing the danger that future warming poses to deserts in the Southwest. The U.S. Geological Survey removed the term “climate change” in a press release from its scientists’ article in Nature about the affect of climate change and human population growth on places where rain-fed agriculture could thrive.

Over 25 coastal U.S. cities are suffering from far more flooding: king tides frequently raise the ground water in Miami into the streets because it’s built on limestone. A rise of over eight feet, possible by the end of the century, could inundate the city, and the United States is doing nothing about the problem.

Prior to the release of the report, DDT tweeted:

“Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

Like Inhoff and other climate change deniers, DDT confuses weather and climate. Sad.

September 11, 2018

Disasters: Hurricanes, Federal Government

Filed under: Climate change — trp2011 @ 11:31 PM
Tags: , ,

Hurricane Florence is currently the biggest crisis for millions of people in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia with northern Florida and Georgia possibly affected. Over 1.5 million people have been told to evacuate because of a triple threat of ocean water across dry land, freshwater flooding from heavy rainfall, and damaging hurricane-force winds of up to 170 mph both at the coast and inland. The rising water in the storm surge could reach as high as 20 feet, and rain could drop up to 45 inches in places where the ground is already saturated. The numbers keep increasing as the hurricane nears shore.

In North Carolina, ocean overwash spilling onto low-lying roads is already slowing evacuations, and schools 150 miles away from the coast are canceling classes.  In South Carolina, all the highway lanes lead only away from the coast. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has refused to evacuate prisoners although he said that “we’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one.” In Virginia, a prison has been evacuated. Washington, D.C. has declared a state of emergency, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the House will stay in session.

North Carolina could become a cesspool of dead hogs and coal ash. The state has over 9 million pigs on 2,100 industrial-scale farms with long metal sheds. The grated floors allow urine and feces to fall through and flow into open pits with millions of gallons of untreated sewage. Nine toxic waste cleanup sites are located near the Carolinas coast. Two dozen huge unlined coal ash pits containing dangerous chemicals such as mercury, arsenic and lead are along lakes and rivers. Eleven nuclear reactors are within the hurricane’s path, two of them like the ones in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Navy, Air Force, and Army are leaving the dangerous areas; the Marines are staying. Over 5.4 million people live in areas now under hurricane warnings or watches on the US East Coast, and another 4 million people are under a tropical storm watch. Assorted bad weather advisories stretch from Florida to Maine on Tuesday evening. Winds may arrive on land Thursday morning with the full-blown hurricane by evening. Like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Hurricane Florence could hover over the Southeast for several days and be worse than Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Thanks to climate change and the increase of greenhouse emissions, hurricanes are increasing in strength. They need warm ocean waters; the warmer the water, the stronger the hurricanes. Florence, now the size of Colorado, may be the biggest one in many decades. The waters ahead of Hurricane Florence are about 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit above average. The coast where Florence is headed is already suffering from sea rise caused by climate change; this hurricane may change the entire makeup of the southeastern coast.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said that the storm will be “tremendously big and tremendously wet,” his administration is “totally prepared,” and that is “sparing no expense” to ensure Americans’ safety. Yet he gave no idea about what his government is doing to be “prepared.” When asked what he learned from Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico, he asserted that his handling of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico was an “incredible unsung success,” and that he did even better in Puerto Rico than in Texas and Florida.

DDT said that “Congress will be generous because we have no choice,” but not all Republicans may agree with him. His Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had tried to force Congress to reduce other expenses to pay for the disaster aid for Hurricane Sandy and voted no to the package while he was representative to the House from South Carolina. FEMA is already short $10 million from “response and recovery” because DDT gave FEMA money to ICE to provide for their deportations.

Approximately the same number of people died in the terrorist attack on 9/11 and the lack of federal response to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The 9/11 attacks led to multiple hearings, investigations, reports, and commissions, and everything from airport security to national security changed. The 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico, which DDT has never admitted, led to two hearings with the FEMA administrator.

One week ago, a federal audit from the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that major hurricanes and wildfires wreaking havoc in 2017 overwhelmed disaster responders. The “2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires: Initial Observations on the Federal Response and Key Recovery Challenges” reported that FEMA is stretched thin and faced “numerous challenges” and “complications” in its response to Hurricane Maria.

“Some of FEMA’s disaster staff deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were not physically able to handle the extreme or austere environment of the territories, which detracted from mission needs.”

Agency officials told auditors that “the physical fitness of staff could be assessed” in the future. About 54 percent of emergency personnel were unqualified to do rescue work in October 2017, a month after the Category 4 storm devastated the U.S. territory.

Yet DDT’s “incredible unsung success” in Puerto Rico had these problems:

  • A $156 million food contract went to an Atlanta contractor and one employee; the company was barred from getting new contracts because it had such a bad track record. The contractor turned the responsibility to a wedding caterer, who failed to complete the job.
  • FEMA gave a $30 million contract for half a million tarps for people who had no shelter, but the tarps were never delivered because the two brothers running the newly-formed company didn’t know how to source them.
  • FEMA administrator Brock Long said that the government had many good contracts, but he couldn’t find enough Spanish speakers to help people. The GOP congressional leadership refused to investigate any more problems with FEMA.
  • The non-profit Red Cross raised over $60 million in donations to help people in Puerto Rico but still has $32 million left from the money promised to ease suffering in Puerto Rico. People died of contaminated water in Puerto Rico, but the Red Cross expenditures included over $6 million management fees and almost $6 million in warehousing and freight costs.
  • FEMA refused all except 75 of 2,000 requests for funeral assistance. Long said that it was not FEMA’s responsibility to count the dead.

The Puerto Rican governor has spent the last year in fear of upsetting DDT and avoiding action. Under his control, the electricity utility granted a $300 million contract to a company with two employees in Whitefish (MT), a small town where Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lives. Zinke’s son worked for the company. Full power was not restored on the island until last month—11 months after Hurricane Maria struck.

DDT explained that “Puerto Rico was actually more difficult because of the fact that it’s an island.” Yet the government failed to mobilize the necessary number of helicopters, and kept the Jones Act from delivering food and water in a timely manner. A hospital ship wasn’t sent for days after the hurricane.

Puerto Rico suffered over $100 billion of damage. People from poorer backgrounds were 45% more likely to have been killed in the aftermath of the hurricane. It is a U.S. territory without representation in Congress and without the ability to vote for the U.S. president. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens able to vote when they move to the mainland. Yet Florida Republicans have tried to keep the 30,000 Puerto Ricans seeking refuge in their state from voting by refusing them Spanish-language ballots. Judge Mark Walker quoted the movie Groundhog Day when he ruled that Florida violated federal election law. Gov. Rick Scott has succeeded in keeping released felons from voting because state law allows him to do it for no reason, but Walker stopped him from blocking the Puerto Ricans.

Today is the 17th anniversary of 3,000 deaths from four airplane attacks by terrorists. DDT succeeded in calmly reading a speech to honor the 40 passengers and crew members who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed outside Shanksville (PA) on 9/11/01, but his victory walk from Air Force One failed to show any empathy for the victims. (Video here.) Just like he told Puerto Ricans that their deaths were their own fault. What will he say about any disasters from Hurricane Florence? Will he throw paper towels at people on the East Coast the way he did in Puerto Rico?

September 29, 2017

Puerto Rico a Disaster, DDT Indifferent

Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico (PR) nine days ago today. With almost no help from the U.S. government, people are without food, drinking out of creeks, and dying in hospitals because of no fuel for generators. Living conditions in Puerto Rico are dire.

The disaster has taught Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) about geography. He’s learned that PR is “an island…an island sitting in the middle of an ocean — and it’s a big ocean. It’s a very big ocean.” DDT likes repetition; he continued, “This isn’t like Florida…This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough stuff.”

Since John Kelly became DDT’s chief of staff over a month ago, Elaine Duke has been acting security of Homeland Security. She called the hurricane as “really a good news story” because of “our ability to reach people.” Duke may think this is true from about 1,600 miles away, but people living on the island have a better perspective. Most of the supplies that came to the island are from private donors because of the archaic Jones Act, and what has arrived is rotting in port because of lack of leadership and infrastructure problems.

Five days after the disaster, Philip Carter wrote about DDT’s “Katrina”:

“So far, the Trump administration has dispatched an anemic Federal Emergency Management Agency mission and sundry military units to assess the situation and provide support. But in some cases it took the federal government days to even contact local leaders in Puerto Rico’s major cities, let alone deploy aid. Only the most rudimentary military support is now on the ground. This is inadequate and calls to mind the lethargic response by the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

Carter also reported that 80 percent of the agriculture in PR has been destroyed along with its food source and economy. People cannot call for help, something the federal government told them to do, because 95 percent of the cell-phone towers are out.

Vox added to the catastrophe’s description:

“More than three million U.S. citizens [are] facing the prospect of living up to six months without power. According to some estimates, damage could exceed $30 billion. Our fellow Americans are in crisis. Since the disaster, House Republicans, led by Congressman Michael McCaul (TX-R), have unveiled a $10 billion proposal … for Donald Trump’s racist border wall and immoral mass deportation force.”

After a visit to PR three days ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talked about the possible “humanitarian crisis.” He said that help for PR required “a lot more hands-on federal engagement.” Like Rubio, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) compared the lack of response to that in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast. Five days ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted:

“President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.”

The administration waited another two days before saying it would deploy the USNS Comfort, an 890-foot-long naval hospital ship, and longer until it sent more personnel and called on truck drivers to go to PR. The ship didn’t leave until today and will take another five days to arrive. A Defense Department official said the ship hadn’t been deployed because of no request from FEMA. Forty-nine of the island’s 69 hospitals are without electricity or fuel to run backup generators. Twenty percent of PR’s 3.5 million population has a disability including half those over the age of 65, and 13 percent of the residents have diabetes, compared to 8.7 percent on the mainland. Insulin requires refrigeration that is at an extreme shortage.

At the same time that a doctor desperately tweeted from San Jorge children’s hospital in downtown San Juan about lack of fuel for generators, U.S. Senate Republicans were trying to eliminate health care for tens of millions of people. DDT tweeted about that rather than PR because it would give money for tax cuts to the wealthy. Then he began arguing for his massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Within a week after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Florida, DDT had managed a massive relief bill. For PR, he said that he would get a request for aid to Congress within a week or two (his term in the past for never) and complained about PR’s debt, seemingly accusing them of the disaster. Part of that debt comes from the $33 million that DDT kept by declaring his golf course in PR bankrupt immediately after he announced his most recent campaign for president.

Shipping limitations from the Jones Act were immediately waived after Texas and Florida were hit by hurricanes a few weeks ago, but DDT refused to do the same for PR until eight days after the disaster. (Texas and Florida voted for DDT, but Puerto Ricans cannot vote for a U.S. president.) DDT might not have waived the law at all except for his public embarrassment for saying that “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry…don’t want the Jones Act lifted.” The family of Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation and wife of the Senate Majority leader, owns a shipping company. The 1920 law, enacted to protect the U.S. from German U-2 boats, requires that goods going from one place in the United States to another must be on ships owned, build, and crewed by U.S. companies. PR pays an excessive amount for goods coming from the mainland because of this law.

Another serious problem in disseminating goods is that military personnel sent to unload containers and drive trucks across the capital are minimal compared to the people sent to other disasters. Only two ships were deployed to PR in the first six days after Maria. Because the federal government is insisting on centralized distributions, donations sent on charter planes by individuals and charitable groups are not reaching people. U.S officials decided that people should drive to San Juan, despite the severely limited fuel situation, to tell them what was needed.

DDT is also trying to control news coming from PR by restricting congressional members from making official visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and evaluating conditions there. The San Juan Airport is functioning at this time, and DDT has said that he plans to visit the island.

The Jones Act permits goods—water, food, fuel, medicine, etc.—can be shipped via foreign registry vessel to PR if the country pays import quotas and many other costs, or by going through Jacksonville (FL) where everything is unloaded, put onto a U.S. ship, and then sent to PR at an increased cost of 15 to 20 percent. For example, cars cost $6,000 more in PR than in Florida. Goods cost about twice as they do on neighboring islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands which is not subject to the Jones Act. Although the cost of living is 13 percent higher than 325 urban areas in the U.S., the per capita income is about $18,000, half that of Mississippi, the poorest of all 50 states. In 2012, the Jones Act caused a $17 billion loss to the island’s economy from 1990 through 2010. PR’s pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, proving 30 percent of the island’s gross domestic product and 90,000 jobs, is shut down.

Today DDT said he didn’t know if the government would help to repair PR’s public infrastructure. His disaster declaration for Texas promised federal funding of up to 75 percent of costs to repair “damaged public facilities” including roads, bridges and schools. FEMA said it would clear debris and other emergency relief.

Billionaires and celebrities are helping Puerto Rico residents by lending their planes to deliver food, water and critical medical supplies. One billionaire, however, has not stepped up to the plate. DDT’s fleet of a large commercial sized plane, a corporate jet, and two helicopters, sits at La Guardia. DDT hasn’t even asked people to donate to this crisis. All during the crisis, he has bragged how he protects the United States from athletes and how well he’s doing in Puerto Rico. He’s wrong on both counts.

The first federal senior administration officials didn’t go to PR for five days. DDT spent the first four days of the hurricane at his golf resort in Bedminster (NJ) except for a brief rally for his failed senatorial candidate in Alabama. Today, DDT said “We will not rest until the people of Puerto Rico are safe” before he flew back to his golf resort.

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