tagged w/ climate disasters
BY ANDREW MIGA
WASHINGTON -- More than 10 weeks after Superstorm Sandy brutalized parts of the heavily populated Northeast, the House approved $50.7 billion in emergency relief for the victims Tuesday night as Republican leaders struggled to close out an episode that exposed painful party divisions inside Congress and out.
The vote was 241-180, and officials said the Senate was likely to accept the measure early next week and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature. Democrats supported the aid in large numbers, but there was substantial Republican backing, too, in the GOP-controlled House.
"We are not crying wolf here," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., one of a group of Northeastern lawmakers from both parties who sought House passage of legislation roughly in line with what the Obama administration and governors of the affected states have sought.
Democrats were more politically pointed as they brushed back Southern conservatives who sought either to reduce the measure or offset part of its cost through spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
"I just plead with my colleagues not to have a double standard," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York. "Not to vote tornado relief to Alabama, to Louisiana, to Mississippi, Missouri, to - with Ike, Gustav, Katrina, Rita - but when it comes to the Northeast, with the second worst storm in the history of our country, to delay, delay, delay."
One key vote came on an attempt by Rep. Rodney Freylinghuysen to add $33.7 billion to an original allotment of $17 billion in aid. That vote was 228-192 and included heavy Democratic support.
Earlier, conservatives failed in an attempt to offset a part of the bill's cost with across-the-board federal budget cuts. The vote was 258-162.
Rep. Mark Mulvaney, R-S.C., arguing for the reduction, said he wasn't trying to torpedo the aid package, only to pay for it. "Are there no savings, are there no reductions we can put in place this year so these folks can get their money?" he asked plaintively.
Sandy roared through several states in late October and has been blamed for 140 deaths and billions of dollars in residential and business property damage, much of it in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It led to power outages and interruptions to public transportation that made life miserable for millions, and the clamor for federal relief began almost immediately.
The emerging House measure includes about $16 billion to repair transit systems in New York and New Jersey and a similar amount for housing and other needs in the affected area. An additional $5.4 billion would go to the Federal Emergency and Management Agency for disaster relief, and $2 billion is ticketed for restoration of highways damaged or destroyed in the storm.
The Senate approved a $60 billion measure in the final days of the Congress that expired on Jan. 3, and a House vote had been expected quickly.
In the weeks since the storm hit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent about $3.1 billion for construction of shelters, restoration of power and other immediate needs after the late-October storm pounded the Atlantic Coast with hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding.
Officials say Sandy is the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm damaged or destroyed 305,000 housing units in New York, and more than 265,000 businesses were disrupted there, officials have said. In New Jersey, more than 346,000 households were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 families remain living out of their homes, according to officials.
More at the link
I cried when I read this. It's about time. Good to see money actually going to help Americans instead of sending them to die in a war. The rich got their tax cuts and the fossil fuel companies get their perks and billions in profits as they continue to destroy this planet. I hope those truly in need get the help they need now. To me those who voted against this bill are heartless human beings and that includes the one democrat.BY ANDREW MIGA
WASHINGTON -- More than 10 weeks after Superstorm Sandy brutalized... more
11 billion dollar disasters just coming under the 14 billion dollar disasters of 2011. Yet this was not important enough to be mentioned at the presidential debates in 2012, nor to be addressed by this Congress or the president of this country beyond more lipservice. Nor was it adequately addressed in climate talks in Doha this past month. A crisis already threatening our survival killing and displacing people globally that gets less coverage than Kim Kardashian. We can't have another year without action.
From Weather Underground: Hour-by-hour animation of infrared satellite images for 2012. The loop goes in slow-motion to feature such events as Hurricane Sandy, the June Derecho, Summer in March, and other top weather events of 2012. The date stamp is at lower left; you will want to make the animation full screen to see the date. Special thanks to wunderground’s Deb Mitchell for putting this together!11 billion dollar disasters just coming under the 14 billion dollar disasters of 2011.... more
"Here’s what he said:
The public is ready for us to take action, but we’re not. We are, as I’ve said previous speeches, sleepwalking. As Congress sleepwalks, Americans actually are taking action on their own.
In coordination with the nonprofit organization 350.org, for example, students at more than 150 colleges and universities across the country are pressing those institutions to sell off the portions of their endowment portfolio that are invested in fossil fuel companies.
These students are imploring their schools to weigh the real cost of climate change against the drive for more financial returns, and divest from the polluters.
This type of divestment campaign was deployed effectively in the 1980s to pull investments from South Africa during apartheid. With American college and university endowments estimated to total more than $400 billion, this movement by students deserves significant attention.
Senator Whitehouse’s comments will be a big boost for student efforts across the country, especially in his home state of Rhode Island (we’ve got great campaigns at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design) and at his alma maters, Yale University and University of Virginia Law School."
More at the link"Here’s what he said:
The public is ready for us to take action, but... more
Is the Asia-Pacific region set to bear the onerous title of having become the disaster centre of the globe? So it would seem if one went by UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Development Report “One Planet to Share — Sustaining Human Progress in a Changing Climate”.
Climate-related disasters are on the rise and during the last two decades, 45 per cent of the world’s natural disasters, whether it be floods in Pakistan in 2010 or Cyclone Nargis which hit Burma in 2008, have occurred here, resulting in numerous deaths, massive human dislocations and severe economic losses.
The public here remain extremely vulnerable largely because while this region hosts half the world’s population, it also has two-thirds (900 million) of the world’s poor. India with its sizeable population hosts a sizeable chunk of this below the poverty line population whose access to social services remain limited and who, because of their limited means, will perforce bear the brunt of climate change.
Mountain communities, with a sizeable 140 million population, are vulnerable to food insecurity, especially those living above heights of 2,500 metres. Temperatures here are rising, snowfall is decreasing, springs are drying up as are other water sources. The communities living in India and Nepal complain against a proliferation of crop diseases and pests which is attributed to shrinking winter period and a decline in snow fall.
The river deltas of India, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam are being threatened by rising sea levels. River bank erosion, the report suggests, is displacing 500,000 people every year. Rising sea levels, one report suggests, will reduce land area by 21 per cent, thereby affecting 16 million people.
Erratic weather patterns have been found to adversely affect indigenous tribal populations who comprise 240 million with more than 500 ethnicities. Their problems may vary as is the case of tribal women in the Khuti district of Jharkhand who complain that rising temperatures has meant a decrease in the harvest of lac, a natural polymer from an insect, used to polish handicrafts and help maintain freshness of fruit.
More at the linkIs the Asia-Pacific region set to bear the onerous title of having become the disaster... more
Melting glaciers in the Himalayas put the small Kingdom of Bhutan at risk. Not only are the “frozen reservoirs” a fundamental water source, but the melting can also cause GLOFS – aka: 'mountain tsunamis' - killer flash floods that occur when glacial lakes suddenly burst.
By Julien Bouissou
THIMPU -- The Kingdom of Bhutan, tucked between India and China in the foothills of the Himalaya mountain range, is paying the price for global industrialization. To the north of the country, a chain of Himalayan glaciers suffer increasingly unstable rates of melting and concerns about the long-term viability of the ice in the face of global warming.
Water flows from these melting glaciers until it breaks the natural ice dams that hold it in place. That, in turn, can result in devastating floods like the one that occurred in 1994, when a torrent of mud killed dozens of people in Bhutan and wiped out entire villages. Western scientists call this phenomenon a glacial lake outburst flood, or GLOF. With 24 of its 2,674 glacial lakes considered unstable, Bhutan is preparing in the coming years for even deadlier “mountain tsunamis,” as the phenomenon is sometimes referred to.
Bhutan is one of the first countries in the world to make GLOF prevention a national priority. In 2005, the government received environmental protection funds financed in part by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The money was earmarked in part to help Bhutan drain water from the Thorthormi glacial lake and reinforce its natural dams. But at that high altitude, the work is difficult, dangerous and ultimately costly.
The air is too thin for helicopters to be of much use. Instead, a group of some 350 residents had to hike 10 days in order to set up a base camp at 5,000-meter elevation. From there, volunteer students, retired soldiers and traditionally-clothed villagers work knee-deep in glacial water, using the few tools they have to try and open a drain canal and build stone walls to reinforce the lake. Every year their efforts are interrupted by the arrival of winter.
“Thanks to satellite imagery, it’s possible to identify the most dangerous glaciers. But it’s impossible to say when or where a catastrophe will happen,” says Pradeep Mool, an engineer with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Researchers take various factors into account when assessing GLOF risk: topography, the likelihood of avalanches that could cause a lake to overflow, how solid a glacial lake’s natural dykes are and the volume of water the lake contains.
The causes of glacial floods are various and difficult to evaluate. And at high altitude, in extreme climate conditions, collecting such information can be extremely dangerous. Dowchu Dukpa, an engineer with Bhutan’s Ministry of the Environment, recalls how scientists struggled to measure water levels on Thorthormi Lake. “The winds were extremely strong, and almost capsized [the researchers’] boat,” he said.
Authorities have identified certain high-risk zones and, in an effort to save lives, prohibited construction in those areas. They now plan to set up an electronic alert system. Sensors placed in the glacial lakes will keep track of water levels. If the level quickly drops, a message will be relayed by SMS so that residents – alerted via cell phones – will know to seek shelter.
Water woes for 750 million?
Although these “tsunamis from above” may be the most immediate danger, they are not the only threat facing the people of Bhutan. As the Himalayan glaciers disappear, so too will the rivers on which the Kingdom depends. Water, after all, is the country’s most precious resource. Bhutan depends on it to irrigate its fields, which support thousands of farmers, and to feed its hydroelectric plants, which generate about 40% of the country’s wealth each year. Water is to Bhutan what oil is to Kuwait.
More at the linkMelting glaciers in the Himalayas put the small Kingdom of Bhutan at risk. Not only... more
Fortunately, the public already understands that global warming makes extreme weather more severe, as new polling reveals:
September polling by ecoAmerica found that 57% of Americans already understand “If we don’t do something about climate change now, we can end up having our farmland turned to desert.” Duh:
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is coming out Friday with its umpteenth watered down report on climate science, in this case on extreme weather. The thing to remember about IPCC reports is that pretty much everyone involved has to sign off on every word, so it is inevitably a least common denominator document.
The actual scientific literature from 2011 is far more useful than this report — see “Study Finds 80% Chance Russia’s 2010 July Heat Record Would Not Have Occurred Without Climate Warming” and “NOAA Study Finds Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in More Frequent Mediterranean Droughts.” I will provide the links to as many recent studies as possible in this post.
Indeed we already know from a major 2011 study that “human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas.” As predicted, the warming has put more water vapor in the air, making deluges more intense. Climatologist Kevin Trenberth explains:
There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms,
Obviously, since it’s getting hotter, we’re worsening extreme heat waves — both in intensity and duration and scale (the area the heat wave covers). For the same reason, we know humans are making droughts worse — in intensity, duration, and scale. The earlier snow melts also makes summer droughts worse.
Actual observations reveal that since 1950, the global percentage of dry areas has increased by about 1.74% of global land area per decade (see here). Heck, our best scientists are already using global warming to help them predict dangerous extreme weather (see “USGS Expert Explains How Global Warming Likely Contributes to East Africa’s Brutal Drought“).
The reinsurance industry understands all this (see Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).
Again, much if not most of the public appear to have a better sense of what’s happening right now than you’ll find in the summaries of a typical IPCC report, to go by Yale’s 2011 polling and the September poll from ecoAmerica quoted at the top, which also found:
69% of Americans Know “Weather Conditions (Such as Heat Waves and Droughts) Are Made Worse by Climate Change”
The American public can’t miss the extreme weather because it is everywhere now and increasingly off the charts (see “A New Record: 14 U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in 2011“) and links below.
Of course, what’s to come is the real issue, since we still have control over that. We’re facing 5 to 10 times the warming this century that we’ve seen in the past half century.
Unfortunately, the IPCC continues to conflate uncertainty in future emissions of greenhouse gases with uncertainty in the climate’s sensitivity to those emissions. This means they present a very large range of possible overall impacts — and that allows the deniers to trumpet the low range with their powerful fossil-fuel-funded megaphone and induces the media to provide “balance” in their stories between the mid-range and the low range.
The reality is we are on the highest emissions trends (see “Biggest Jump Ever in Global Warming Pollution in 2010 means “levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago”). And the latest science and observation points towards the high end of the climate’s sensitivity (see Journal of Climate: New cloud feedback results “provide support for the high end of current estimates of global climate sensitivity”).
Most climate scientists know what is coming if we don’t act quickly– and more and more are shedding their reticence to speak out, even if that is not yet reflected in bland, least-common-denominator IPCC reports (see Lonnie Thompson on why climatologists are speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization”).
And as long as the deniers, inactivists and climate ignorati rule the debate, inaction is assured, which means that we are risking extreme weather beyond imagination, extreme events on top of an average warming this century that could hit 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 25°F in the Arctic:
More at the linkFortunately, the public already understands that global warming makes extreme weather... more
Deaths and health problems from floods, drought and other U.S. disasters related to climate change cost an estimated $14 billion over the last decade, researchers said on Monday.
"When extreme weather hits, we hear about the property damage and insurance costs," said Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council and a co-author of the study. "The healthcare costs never end up on the tab."
The study in the journal Health Affairs looked at the cost of human suffering and loss of life due to six disasters from 2000-2009.
"This in no way is going to capture all of the climate-related events that happened in the U.S. over that time period," Knowlton said. "At $14 billion, these numbers are big already."
To put this in context, 14 weather disasters in the United States so far this year have cost at least $14 billion, according to Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground website.
Masters said by email that health costs and deaths are considered in some of the data used to reach this figure.
Scientists and economists from the non-profit NRDC, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco estimated the health costs for the following events from 2000 to 2009:
* U.S. ozone air pollution, 2000-2002, $6.5 billion;
* West Nile virus outbreak in Louisiana, 2002, $207 million;
* Southern California wildfires, 2003, $578 million;
* Florida hurricane season, 2004, $1.4 billion;
* California heat wave, 2006, $5.3 billion;
* Red River flooding in North Dakota, 2009, $20 million.
GETTING WORSE AS PLANET WARMS
The study's authors stressed they chose events in the middle of the severity spectrum and left out some notably costly disasters, such as the 2005 hurricane season that included the devastating Hurricane Katrina. In the case of Katrina, the healthcare costs were hard to pinpoint.
The six case studies are examples of events related to climate change that are projected to worsen as the planet warms, the authors said.
These six events resulted in an estimated 1,689 premature deaths, 8,992 hospitalizations, 21,113 emergency room visits and 734,398 outpatient visits, according to the study.
More at the linkDeaths and health problems from floods, drought and other U.S. disasters related to... more