Nel's New Day

September 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s Disasters

First a Category 4 hurricane followed by a 1,000-year rain/flood. What can be worse? Explosions!  After EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt delayed rules for chemical plants, organic peroxide at the Arkema chemical facility in Crosby, about 25 miles northeast of Houston, continues to blow up because of refrigerator loss from flooding. Arkema officials refused to keep the chemicals from exploding because it would then be unsalable. They aren’t even required to tell first responders what chemicals are at Arkema to provide safety for the firefighters. In more explosions, the “extremely flammable” chemical will just have to “burn itself out,” producing “incredibly dangerous” fumes, according to a facility spokesperson.  Interview with Houston Chronicle reporter Matt Dempsey regarding Arkema’s refusal to talk.

The rules that Pruitt delayed came after a 2013 explosion at a chemical facility in West, 200 miles north of Houston, that killed 15 people. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is erasing any federal responsibility in disaster response and discouraging corporate investment in new infrastructure. The newest refinery is 60 years old. Millions of pounds of pollutants have been released from flooded and shut-down refineries and chemical plants. Two nuclear reactors are still operating at Bay City, 65 miles southeast of Houston, where people have been evacuated, and flooding could cause electrical fires leading to core damage as well as a meltdown from loss of cooling water inventory.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez lied about the explosion, describing them as a “pop” followed by smoke; FEMA director, Brock Long, said a plume of chemicals leaking from the plant was “incredibly dangerous.”

Rebuilding in Texas will fail because DDT rescinded the requirement that future building company meet tougher flood standards set by President Obama. A bipartisan plea to keep the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard was overwhelmed by real estate developers and builders. DDT announced his change in an executive order at his August 15 press conference when he ranted support of white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) wife and Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, will be implementing DDT’s order. She is a former banker with Citicorp, vice president of Bank of America Capital Markets Group, and board member of Wells Fargo.

DDT’s lack of personnel and budget cuts will also ensure worse flooding and other disasters in the future. The U.S. has no director for either NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, nor DHS. Two FEMA deputy directors await confirmation. DDT’s budget slashes $667 million from FEMA programs and grants, including cuts to the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, which provides funding states and cities to better withstand the impact of hurricanes and coastal storms. He wants the funding moved to “the wall.” Proposed NOAA cuts: 16 percent overall; 32 percent to the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, the agency’s main ocean, weather and climate research office; computer modeling of storms and observation of storms and data dissemination; and 22 percent to NOAA’s satellite division used for weather prediction.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) submitted an amendment to the federal government’s 2018 spending bill preventing funds for the government’s National Climate Assessment.

Texas wants FEMA money but turned down other aid. People of Quebec offered blankets, beds, and water as well as other relief effort such as equipment and crews to help restore power, but Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos refused everything. He asked for “prayers from the people of Quebec” instead. Mexico has also offered help, but the U.S. has not yet accepted.

Both GOP Texas U.S. senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, begged DDT for “any and all emergency protective measures available by a major disaster declaration.” Along with over 20 GOP Texas representatives in the House, they voted against the emergency aid package for Sandy that hit the East Coast. Thirty-nine GOP senators and 179 GOP representatives opposed money for Sandy, and senators stalled for 91 days.

After two months on the job, FEMA Director Long explained that he didn’t order an evacuation of Houston because it would take too long to get people out of the city. People left in the city sat in water if they couldn’t get out on their own—like these women in a Houston nursing home.

As usual, DDT treated the hurricane disaster as his own television reality show. Balanced on a ladder between two fire trucks in Corpus Christi, he held up a Texas flag and said to a few hundred people, “What a crowd, what a turnout!” He talked about the “ratings” from Hurricane Harvey and bragged that FEMA Director Long “has really become very famous on television over the last couple of days.” He seemed self-congratulatory when he tweeted, “WOW – now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” DDT even lied in his tweet about “witnessing first hand the horror & devastation.” In Texas for only three hours, he went to Austin and Corpus Christi, met with the Texas governor, and was briefed at a Corpus Christi firehouse. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to cover for DDT by saying, “He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster.”

The piece missing from his impromptu speeches was any reference to the people who died in the storm or were forced to leave their homes from the floods. As a germaphobe, DDT may not have been able to touch any of the victims.

DDT did advertise the items for sale on his campaign website through product placement. The “USA” hat that he consistently wore is available for only $40.

While people in Texas were suffering, DDT concentrated on forcing transgender service members out of the military, pardoning white supremacist Joe Arpaio, advertising racist David Clark’s new book, and demanding his “wall.” At no time did he ask for donations for the people in the disaster areas. President Obama did that.

DDT promised to donate $1 million to an unspecified Harvey relief fund, but it is unlikely that he will. Although Sanders said the money might come from the Trump Foundation, donations from other people, that might be difficult because the Foundation is under investigation. When DDT collected money for veterans during his campaign, he didn’t release the money until the media embarrassed him into giving at least part of it to veterans. His statement that he had given $1 million of his personal money turned out to be false.

From Amy Goodman:

“Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical depression as it moves over Louisiana and into Mississippi. In Houston, floodwaters have begun to recede, revealing corpses and mass devastation. Texas officials say at least 44 people [now 47] have been killed by the storm. Nearly 100,000 homes are damaged by flooding. More than 30,000 people remain in shelters. Health officials are taking steps to minimize the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, and nearly 150,000 homes have been told to boil their water. East of Houston, in hard-hit Beaumont, drinking water is completely shut off, and emergency workers are evacuating Beaumont’s main hospital. Meanwhile, flooding continues in North Houston as the Neches River surged beyond its banks and is expected to rise another foot by Friday afternoon.”

In another segment on Democracy Now, guest Renee Feltz talked about the release of waters from reservoirs that increases flooding and one of the polluted areas that EPA is still trying to clean up. Houston is home to over a dozen Superfund sites requiring cleaning up from pollutants, and DDT has cut that budget by almost one third.

Five public health problems after flooding in Houston: contaminated water, especially because of the release of pollutants by the oil and gas industry and explosions from the Arkema chemical plant; mosquitoes, bred in standing water and spreading disease; lost medicines left in evacuated homes, perhaps when people don’t know the names of their medications; mold from underwater conditions in many homes and other buildings; spread of infectious diseases from close contact in shelters; and long-term mental issues such as depression.

Eric Holthaus (Politico):

“Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously.”

Michael Mann (The Guardian):

“Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction. In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F).”

Two high pressure systems kept Harvey in place longer than any other tropical storm in history. The disaster is consistent with last decade’s trend with nine of the past 11 years of Atlantic hurricane seasons producing more storms than normal. And now, Hurricane Irma, suddenly turned into a Category 3 hurricane, is headed for the U.S.

August 21, 2016

‘God’s Catastrophes’: The New Normal

Far-right Christian fundamentalist have a pattern of blaming all disasters on LGBT people. At first, it was just natural disasters such as the California drought of 1978, but then gays blamed for health pandemics. The only time that Ronald Reagan publicly spoke about AIDS just before the end of his second presidential term in 1987 was in his first year in office when he said, “May be the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

Finally evangelical leaders blamed LGBT people for every problem, including the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. In Pat Robertson’s eyes, they shared responsibility with “pagans,” “abortionists,” “ACLU,” and everyone else “who have tried to secularize America.” Pope Benedict XVI expanded the blame by warning that same-gender marriage will “threaten … the future of humanity itself.”

Republicans, however, may be suffering from these disasters. Four years ago, Hurricane Isaac forced the GOP to shorten their convention in Tampa. This month, the disastrous Louisiana deluge flooded the home of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and his Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.  Forced to flee his home in a canoe, Perkins failed to see the event as a punishment but instead “an incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise … with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”

An increasing number of people, however, are realizing that human-created climate change cause recent natural disasters. Belief that climate change is caused by human activities has reached an all-time high of 65 percent, up almost 20 percent from 55 percent last year. Even 40 percent of Republicans understand that climate is caused by people, up nine points from last year. This poll was taken almost six months ago before the massive fires and floods of the summer and the discovery that July was the hottest month in history. Other drastic climate-related effects include glaciers’ melting, permafrost thawing, and sea levels rising.

Yet GOP politicians are panicking about the EPA “suggestion” that federal agencies consider the impact on climate when making decisions such as mine permits, dam installations or removal, and roads construction near protected habitats. Their position is that this “guidance” has “no legal basis,” as summarized by GOP chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, known for using a snowball to prove that climate change doesn’t exist.

Some of these Republicans may hate Trump for what he’s doing to their political party, but they agree with him in denying climate change. Editors of Scientific American, who have always tried to be apolitical, call the 2016 election “something special,” that “it takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain.” Trump slammed global warming as a “Chinese plot,” threatened to eradicate a climate agree that’s taken 20 years to create, and promised to eliminate the federal agency that tries to provide clean air and water for U.S. residents.

The flooding in Louisiana is the most recent disaster from climate change. With 6,900,000,000,000 gallons of rain in one week—and more than 31 inches of rain in 15 hours at one location—the calamity is the worst since the 2012 Superstorm Sandy. Part of the catastrophe is the housing crisis. Damage to over 100,000 homes has left 102,000 people thus far applying for federal disaster aid across 20 parishes. The shortage of habitable homes for rent only makes their situation worse as water rises in some places as it drains south across the flat land. FEMA offers grants of up to $33,000 in disaster areas for repairs, but many people have lost everything because they didn’t have flood insurance.

The flood is called “a 1,000-year event,” but that prediction is based on the climate a century ago and not today. At the University of Washington, Eric P. Salathé studies the intersection of climate change and flooding and explains that the issue is the temperature. Warmer air—as experienced in July—carries more water than cooler air, causing much more rainfall in storm. According to a federal government meteorologist, the Louisiana storm would have produced little rain 40 years ago before the current climate warming. For those who think the disaster has abated, storms and flash floods have moved into Texas.

One way to protect residents in the area is stricter zoning laws, something that conservatives avoid, especially when a similar disaster might not happen for 50 years. Communities have the choice of rejecting development opportunities in the immediate future or putting citizens in danger in the long term—and they usually pick the immediate gratification. Especially when they think that God is the cause of this misery and they can do nothing to protect themselves!

As people suffer from the flooding, Republicans use the situation as a political football instead of working to help them. They deride President Obama for not immediately taking an entourage to the state, causing more expense and confusion. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that he would never ask the president not to visit, but he did say this to the president and Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisor:

“I asked them to let us get out of the response mode where we were still conducting searches of houses, and we were still making rescues. I didn’t want to divert these police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers and other essential resources and assets to providing security for the president while they were needed in this region to undergo those—or to undertake those response activities. And I asked that if he could wait until the response was over and we got into the recovery phase, which I predicted we would do over the weekend and certainly next week would be a better time for us to visit. But the president is welcome to come to our state anytime that he wants to.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, drained these resources while ridiculing President Obama for waiting until the appropriate time for a visit. As Trump spent only 49 seconds in Baton Rouge unloading Play Doh from a truck, he obviously wanted only a photo-op. At the same time, President Obama ensured that people receive immediate federal resources and disaster relief.

Edwards’ office commented about Trump’s visit:

“Gov. Edwards wasn’t informed of the Trump campaign’s visit to the state or the schedule. We welcome them to Louisiana, but not for a photo-op. Instead we hope they’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.”

After talking with Edwards, Hillary Clinton asked people to donate to either the Red Cross or the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

In another “once in a lifetime event,” the Blue Cut fire in California went from a few acres to 30,000 in just 24 hours and forced the evacuation of 82,000 people. As the fire continued to spread, it destroyed at least 96 single-family homes and 213 outbuildings as well as an iconic inn. The extremely hot temperatures also causes the perfect conditions for wildfires. Usually fires this large don’t happen until fall, but climate change has caused the season to be much longer and much worse.

A year ago, a study a year ago reported that worsening wildfire seasons will occur within the coming years. Between 1979 and 2013, the average length of the season became 18.7 percent longer. Like the flooding in the United States, longer seasons are a “new normal.” In the decade before 2015, the U.S. paid $1.7 billion dollars to suppress wildfires. In California alone, the cost of fighting fires went from a few million dollars in the late 1970s to $550 million in 2015 alone. The carbon emitted by fires also hastens climate change, and forests will be less capable of taking CO2 from the atmosphere.

Fires have increased 500 percent on public land since the late 1970s. This year, the fire season started much earlier in California because a heat wave sent temperatures up to 120 degrees in southern parts of the state. Since 1970, summer temperatures have risen almost one-half degree every decade. The worst is yet to come between the end of September and December with the Santa Ana winds from the desert. The state’s fifth year of drought is also creating tinderbox forests.

Basically, people who think that they have no part in causing catastrophes because they come from God, deny any support to remediate climate change, refuse to support any regulations that would make their lives better, fight against “big government,” and try to take away any human rights that don’t fit in their religion want the rest of us to give them money when climate change bites them in ….  They hate President Obama but whine about his not rushing to Louisiana as soon as the flooding started. Hmmm.

December 18, 2014

Climate Change, Sea Rise Real

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 9:02 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The year’s biggest lie: according to PolitiFact, “climate change is a hoax” was the favored choice. Almost 32 percent of the poll respondents chose this as a lie over nine other options. Scientists overwhelmingly support the position that people are causing the climate change. In contrast, chief climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) will chair his chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and 17 of 22 GOP members of the House Science, Space, and Technology deny any climate change or any human cause for the problem.

Extreme heat in the winter when the polar vortex dipped far south into the United States has driven the warming in the Arctic, twice as fast as in lower latitudes. The average temperature for last year ran 1.8 degrees above the 1981-2010 average. Alaska saw 18 degrees above normal, and Greenland’s temperature were 16 degrees over normal last January. Warm temperatures are driving the above-average melt to Greenland’s ice sheet and the disappearance of a snow cover almost a month earlier than normal. The problem for the rest of the world is the serious loss of sea ice, possibly contributing to a wavier jet stream that stalls weather patterns.

Climate projections for 50 years in the future seem so impossible that many people ignore them. Looking 50 years in the past, however, consider the premier beach resort, Ocean City (VA), within “pleasant driving distance” of Washington and Baltimore, according to the glossy sales brochure. Richard F. Hall sold 2000 lots on Cedar Island starting in the 1950s, and his granddaughter and her developer husband sold more land in the 1980s. People built houses and then moved them away from the encroaching sea if they could afford to do so. Scientists warned about the failure of building at that location; state regulators allowed the development although they knew it was doomed for disaster.

cedar-island-houseNow the last house on Cedar Island has been taken by the ocean.

cedar-island-house-2On another barrier island, Miami Beach has spent millions to replenish sand on its beaches. Scientists believe that the seas will rise three or more feet by the end of the century—85 years from now. And people keep buying and building.

At the other end of the United States, the people of Shishmaref, a village of 563 people just 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle, have watched the eroding shores.  The town, originally with wide beaches, got a post office in 1901 and incorporated in 1969. Alaska’s average temperatures have warmed 3.4 degrees during the past half century, and the thawing permafrost is washing away. Fall and early winter storms also eat away at the area because the surrounding sea freezes for much less of the year than in the past. The island where the village is located loses up to 22.6 feet in one year with big storms and an annual of between 2.7 and 8.9 feet.

alaska house disappearsFor many people in the United States, the sea rise is of no concern. Yet 50 percent of the nation’s coastline is at high or very high risk of impacts from sea level rise, and 16.4 million people live in the coastal flood plain. More than half of the area covered by 40 large cities (population over 50,000) is less than 10 feet above the high tide line. Florida has the biggest problem because 27 of these cities are located in that state with 85 percent in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Even worse, each one sits on bedrock filled with holes, leaving them without any method of defense from the rising ocean.

So much ice in Greenland and Antarctica is melting that these two regions are shrinking and changing the pull of gravity. Water levels may fall in those locations while the gravitational pull contributes to the rising waters along the U.S. coastlines. As high-latitude ice melts in the higher latitudes, the water slopes more towards the equator.

Another contributing factor is the expansion of the ocean because of increased warming. People have argued that the rate of sea level is slowing, possibly because the heat is getting sucked up by the colder parts of the ocean. The slowing, however, won’t last. The last time that the planet warmed at this rate, about 120,000 years ago, sea levels were 15 to 30 feet higher than now.

A recent study shows that the worst-case scenario for sea level rise is 6 feet by 2100, but that study is based from expert opinion in 2012. Things have gotten much worse almost three years later as scientists have discovered that the Greenland ice sheet is far less stable than previously thought.

Everyone is affected by sea rise, even those who don’t live in affected areas. The damage was estimated to reach $2 trillion a year by 2100—and that study was two years ago. Cutting temperature increases in half could avoid losing almost $1.4 trillion of the total cost.

If the United States takes no action to slow down global warming, millions of people will face the same disaster during the next 50 years as residents in Ocean City and Shishmaref have endured. And many more millions will suffer from economic disaster.

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