“Super hurricane” Harvey ended just two weeks ago, and the next super hurricane… Irma… is headed straight for Florida. Storm of the Century? We’ve suffered through so many superstorms that have caused multi-billion dollar damage… Katrina ($108 billion), Sandy ($75 billion), Ike ($37.5 billion), Wilma ($29.4 billion), Andrew ($26.5 billion) that we’re getting a bit numb to the term “storm of the century”. Maybe these used to be storms of the century, but in the 21st century, they’re just… storms. If the climate science people are correct, this level of storm will soon be an annual event.
Isn’t it strange that when a storm is in progress, everyone… the governor, the mayor, and the President… intently watches the news for any clues on when to evacuate, areas that will be underwater, which shelters need to be opened, and which travel routes are safe. Yet, when the flood waters recede and it’s time to plan for next year (or five or ten years from now), that same governor, mayor and President say, “Climate scientists? What do they know! You can’t predict the weather!). But all of these super storms ARE what the Climate scientists told us would happen a decade ago after Hurricane Katrina.
Regardless of what politicians believe, next year will come, and it will bring more storms. Even this year, we still have three months before the hurricane season is over. Hurricane Sandy hit at the end of October. There’s still time for another 2017 superstorm. Even a moderately strong storm could devastate Huston if it strikes in the next few weeks. It’s time to end the debate about whether there is Global Warming (Answer: Yes, there is!), figure out what it costs to do nothing (Answer: Trillions of dollars), and agree on how we can reduce the risks of Climate Change.
Flood cities aren’t just on the coasts. Big rivers have also been flooding. The Mississippi, the Red River, Ohio and other major rivers have all taken lives and destroyed property. Climate Change affects more than just the US. The UK is experiencing the worst flooding in almost 300 years. Venice has been flooding for centuries, but today floors happen just about every year, and every year the floods get deeper and deeper.
The storm toll is enormous. As of this writing, the death count in Houston is at 70 and is still rising. But, if we look on the other side of the world… in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India… over 1,200 have died so far in their version of the Hurricane (Monsoon) season. Weather is global. Industry in the US impacts other countries around the world, and the growing economies of China, India, and Africa increasingly impact our own weather. That’s why it is so important that the most advanced nations, including the US, set an example for the rest of the world. If not, we will all pay an enormous penalty.
How big is that penalty? Hurricane Harvey will cost between $50 billion and $200 billion, costing as much or more than Hurricane Katrina. As more and more private insurance firms drop out of the flood insurance industry, FEMA (a Federal program) will increasingly be responsible for paying the bills. Hopefully, Ted Cruise and other Climate Change naysayers will learn a few lessons from Harvey.
- Global Climate Change Predictions – If we cut through the hype, Climate Change experts made a simple prediction about floods. The weather will get warmer, storms get bigger, and more super storms would happen. Which is exactly what has happened over the last decade. We lived through Katrina and Sandy, and Larsen ice shelves A, B, and now C have almost entirely melted away. Recently, it was revealed that big oil companies had their scientists advising them about Climate Change wince the 1970’s, even though oil CEO’s (such as former ExxonMobile’s CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) have repeatedly said that no evidence of Climate Change exists. Will Ted Cruise will ExxonMobil’s scientists?
- Storm of the Century – When you have a storm of the century every year, how do you pay for it? Think quick Ted! The Federal Flood Insurance program runs out at the end of September. If superstorms are the new baseline for storms, funding needs to go way, way up. Especially as private insurance companies are exiting the flood insurance business. That means that the cost of GCC will be paid by US taxpayers.
- Human Activity – Climate Change predictions go back to the last century, but now there is increasing certainty about the cause… “human activity”. Pollution is one contributor, but the destruction of our wetlands may be even more important. Wetlands soak up rain. Turn wetlands into condos and cities flood. If you don’t save the wetlands you can build storm drains and runoff systems, but Huston consumed it’s wetlands and failed to engineer flood systems. How about that Ted! Maybe we can shift the flooding problem from big oil pollution to unscrupulous Real Estate developers. The Donald should love that discussion!
- Environmental Regulations – After years of a depressed economy, local governments bend over backward to accommodate new businesses. Like the Foxconn deal in Wisconsin. Foxconn will receive a huge state tax credit, and will probably be given exemptions from environmental regulations. Chemical factories in Houston negotiated exemptions from some environmental regulations. Today these factories are venting toxic smoke and have had several explosions. Executives have stated that at some point, they expect the factory to burn down. Nearby, are toxic Superfund sites, which have flooded and the contaminated waters may mix with the local drinking water. Are we going to storm-proof toxic sites?
- Housing – As Hurricane waters recede, housing becomes an urgent issue. After Katrina 45,000 personal shelters were needed; Harvey is expected to require at least 30,000 shelters. Katrina-era shelters are worn out and have been disposed of. Newer, high-tech shelters and mini-homes can more be moved, assembled, and stored more quickly. HUD (Housing and Urban Development) usually provides guidance and manages these shelters. If super storms hit every year, America needs a stock of mobile shelters that can be swiftly deployed.
- Corruption – Today we focus on the victims, but soon scam artists and swindlers will catch our attention when billions in federal funds are stolen or mishandled. Major corporations and minor thieves will overbill or defraud housing and rebuilding projects. This cycle will repeat in the next disaster. If Climate Change means going from disaster to disaster, it also means going from scam to scam. FEMA’s need to invest in “warehouses” to store portable housing units and supplies for the next disaster, and a standing task force to deal with corruption.
- The Long View – Harvey is over, but Hurricane Irma, which has the strongest winds ever recorded, is just beginning. Just behind Irma are tropical storms Jose and Katia. Triple storm? Yep, yet another “only happens once in a century” storm conditions in the last two weeks. Is it time for the Climate Change deniers in Washington to give up discredit changes in the weather or debating who caused Climate Change, and instead identify ways to flood proof our cities? This will cost hundreds of billions of dollars… but so too will just a couple of super storms. TED! Are you taking notes?
Storms are expensive, and big storms are more expensive. So far, Climate Change predictions have been pretty accurate, and we are told that more storms that will cause record damage are on the way. We have treated big storms and big flooding as occasional disasters instead of seasonal events. As a nation, we need to raise the priority of flood prevention. Storm proofing out flood cities will be hugely expensive. But, there is one thing that is many times more expensive… doing nothing!