Category Archives: Global Warming
It’s supposed to be a busy hurricane season this year. This particular storm is not organized (yet?), and the National Weather Service is being cagey as to whether and when it might become a serious(ish) storm:
Interests in the northwestern Bahamas and Florida should monitor the progress of this disturbance since it is increasing likely that some impacts, at a minimum heavy rains and gusty winds, will occur beginning this weekend. * Formation chance through 48 hours…medium…50 percent * Formation chance through 5 days…high…80 percent
My rule of thumb is that a tropical wave I don’t drive anywhere, but don’t take in the outdoor furniture. Tropical Storm, I take in the furniture. Worse than that, it is time to stock up on hurricane supplies and gas for the generator. Historically, category 1 storms can cause of damage to trees and power lines but our houses are hardened. I can’t think of a Category 2 in recent years, but in theory the area is hardened for those too. Worse than that, time to worry, although my house was rennovated a few years ago, and now is supposed to be able to withstand a Category 3 at least, and maybe more.
Hurricane Andrew was a Category 4 and it was devastating to the community. The biggest damage was caused by tornadoes spun off the hurricane. Unlike in the Midwest, there’s really no way to see them coming due to the giant storm around them. And of course we don’t have basements to hide in either.
A new complication this year is that big storms, even the less destructive ones, leave big pools of standing water behind them. Mosquitoes love those…which means more Zika….
Looking at the information about the climate change agreement coming out of Paris two things seem to emerge: First, this is a more meaningful deal than ever before, and more meaningful than one would have expected two weeks ago. Second, this is not enough to stop global warming, not enough to ensure that we don’t reach the tipping point where the ice caps shrink even faster than they are already doing, not enough to ensure that coastal cities — not least Miami!– will be safe from rising sea levels. The deal may (and if adhered to, likely does) improve the odds some, but since we’re not sure what the odds are, we can’t be sure how much they are improved; it could be a lot, it could be quite little.
So I can’t say the global climate change action glass is half full. But there is water in the glass.
Update: Informed Comment, Paris COP21 will only slow Climate Change: Here’s What’s going to happen to you and your children explains why, even as one recognizes this is progress, it’s still not enough progress. Among other things, however much water there is in the glass, there’s not going to be enough in the ice caps…
Eye on Miami has the scoop on Goodbye, Miami, Rolling Stone’s big Miami story due out tomorrow. It’s a recounting of Miami’s difficult future if/when sea levels rise, and the ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach to planning by local, mostly Republican, elected officials. There’s also a major cameo by our local power executives, who not only have aging nuclear reactors in a future flood zone but want to build more.
Even though, as EoM notes, none of this is news if you’ve been paying attention, that doesn’t make it any less of a likely/possible mess. But as most of the most likely scenarios put the really serious stuff more than 20 years out, that puts it outside the time horizon of Miami’s endlessly short-term planners.
May I suggest a soundtrack for reading the Rolling Stone article? Try Róisín Murphy’s ‘Dear Miami’, my favorite Miami-themed song. And very appropriate, as it includes the lyric “Dear Miami, you’re the first to go, disappearing under melting snow”.
Juan Cole is shrill about global warming:
One obvious lesson of Muller’s study is that coal should be banned immediately and its mining and distribution should be criminalized. We put people in prison for a little pot, but let the coal industry destroy the earth. A few brave souls are protesting environmentally destructive ways of mining coal. But we should all be protesting the poisonous stuff itself.
The other obvious lesson is that we need a global Manhattan project to move to clean energy immediately. We don’t have much time. Carbon dioxide emissions were up 6% last year. Massive government-funded research and tax breaks could bring down costs of solar and wind quickly and make geothermal more practical. We need to redo the national electricity grid and put hydropumps in hilly or mountainous regions to keep solar- and wind-generated energy flowing during down times. This task has to be our number one priority, more important than fighting a small terrorist organization in distant lands, more important than spending 20 times on the war industries what our closest ally does, more important that imprisoning people for a few tokes, more important than tax breaks for the wealthy, more important than reproductive issues. Our Congress is a latter-day Nero, fiddling while the world burns, and any of them that doesn’t get it should be turned out in November if you care about the fate of your children and grandchildren.
Politically, there’s no chance of this in the US, much less in China. But Cole thinks he has anticipated one objection:
By the way, there are only 80,000 workers employed in coal mining in the US. There are 100,000 workers in solar energy and a similar number in wind. I suspect West Virginia and western Pennsylvania could have a lot of jobs in wind turbines, and those states and the federal government should help brave coal workers make the transition.
(Of course there will be more jobs in downstream occupations, and the disruptive cost of closing power plants and industries dependent on coal will be much larger still, so this number is I fear a gross understatement. And there would be the short-term competitive trade consequences of unilateralism…maybe balanced out by long-term gains from new technology leadership, but maybe not.)
It is also possible to fantasize about energy as the economy-saving alien invasion Paul Krugman wants us to imagine, and Cole takes us there:
Ronald Reagan used to fantasize that an alien invasion could unite human beings across capitalist and communist systems. Well, Reaganites now have their chance: Climate Change is a kind of alien invasion, threatening the human species, and here is an opportunity to put aside differences and unite to meet the biggest challenge we have faced in our 150,000 years of existence as homo sapiens sapiens.
On the other hand, this administration, at least, has demonstrated an unerring ability for letting good crises go to waste.
The latest climate change data are scary. It now seems highly likely that unless we bend the curve somehow, maybe Right Now, very bad changes will happen in the medium to long term. Certainly in my children’s’ lifetime; whether in mine is less clear. But the odds are that nothing radical will happen next year, which given our short-termism means the panic button remains out of reach.
In that context, Cole’s coal take feels wildly excessive. But it does raise the question: Is it time to be shrill? Is there any other way to move the Overton window on climate change? And do I have the, er, energy to participate in trying?