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Extreme Weather Costing U.S. Billions – When Does The Climate Change Lightbulb Go On?

2011/09/09

It’s been an exhausting and extreme year weather-wise across the U.S., as this pointed out in this Reuters article, Weather Disasters Keep Costing the U.S. Billions This Year. And yet, there is still resistance across that country and my own, furiously propped up by wealthy fossil fuel interests, to the scientific evidence pointing out people’s contribution, through our unrestrained burning of fossil fuels, to a warmer global atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere results in global climate instability, more extremes such as the floods, droughts, and wildfires that much of North America has been experiencing in 2011. Which just goes to show, as Saul Bellows, writer, and Nobel laureate (1915-2005) said:

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

All but about 100 acres of the 6,000 acre Bastrop State Park in Bastrop, Texas has been blackened by a wildfire. This video shot by Texas Parks and Wildlife on September 5 shows just how fast the fire moved through:

Nearly 100,000 people were ordered to flee the rising Susquehanna River on Thursday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped more rain across the Northeast, socking areas still recovering from Hurricane Irene and closing major highways at the morning rush. At Binghamton, N.Y., the wide river broke a flood record and flowed over retaining walls downtown:

Storms Sweep Through NEW YORK CITY August 19, 2011:

More links:

Get involved in spreading the word! Moving Planet 350.org

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 2011/09/09 12:45 pm

    The neo-conservative cabal, the Project for The New American Century, understood its radical rightwing philosophy would never take hold barring a cataclysmic event (9/11). Americans probably won’t budge on global warming barring some similar seismic event. In fact their belief in global warming is declining markedly of late, the result of an intense effort by the denialist community and their corporate benefactors. Watch for southern Americans to develop an acceptance of severe weather events, particularly floods and droughts. Perhaps when the US experiences real internal climate displacement it will change public attitudes but, by then, it will probably be much too late to matter.

    • Christine permalink*
      2011/09/10 10:37 am

      Well, if you look at what’s happening in Texas right now, it’s getting up there on the “seismic” scale. I agree that there are many forces working against connecting the dots on climate change and extreme weather, but attitudes can change overnight, such as happened before and after the bombing of Pearl Harbour re: America’s involvement in the war. Being on the side of the truth, I still believe that there is the possibility of a WW2-like shift in the North American economy, too, before it’s completely too late.

  2. 2011/09/10 11:08 am

    I agree, it will happen. What is unlikely is that it will happen in time. Some, such as James Hansen, contend that we have to abandon unconventional fossil fuels – now – and completely wean ourselves off coal by 2015 if we’re to have a reasonable chance of avoiding runaway global warming. James Lovelock, by contrast, has already thrown in the towel.

    http://the-mound-of-sound.blogspot.com/2010/04/lovelock-weve-already-pulled-trigger-on.html

    “In a lengthy interview with BBC News, Lovelock says, “We’re not really guilty. We didn’t set out to heat the world.” He adds that trying at this point to save the planet is “a lot of nonsense” and, by way of consolation, suggests you might as well “enjoy life while you can.'”

    Lovelock makes Hansen sound incredibly optimistic. My guess is that when the situation gets bad enough (bad enough for us by which point it’ll be the end of the road for people in less fortunate parts of the world, i.e. most of the planet) we’ll go for all the geo-engineering
    options we can fund. Certainly the Chinese will. Most of these ideas carry very dangerous side effects but they usually land in someone else’s territory.

    It’s a hell of a world when a guy turns grateful to be old.

    • Christine permalink*
      2011/09/10 11:20 am

      Yes, I thought those comments of Lovelock’s were not very helpful – and it’s nice for him that he’s ninety, but the rest of us have a little longer left in our sojourn on earth (and we have children and granchildren!). It’s possible for a smart person to be quite wrong, and Lovelock isn’t a social scientist, so it’s impossible for him to predict how humanity may react/change. And as for saving the planet, heck, the planet is going to be just fine without humans. It’s saving my children’s future that I’m focusing on.
      Gwynne Dyer agrees with you re: geoengineering. I’m pretty sure, though, that humans will manage to muck that up. There are ways that we could quickly cool down the planet without geoengineering – painting all roofs white is projected to result in a 1 degree cooling. But if the arctic ice is all gone, it will be too little, too late, I agree. But I remain not optimistic, but hopeful. I have to, to be able to sleep at night.

  3. 2011/09/10 11:46 am

    My outlook depends on neither optimism nor hope. To me, all the motivation anyone needs is to realize that across the less-fortunate parts of the world, most of our planet, the most vulnerable are visited with the direct impacts of our excessive carbon emissions. We are wrecking the hydrological cycle and it’s the majority of humanity situated beyond the handful of truly advantaged countries that receives the worst of the drought/flood cycles. We are literally killing these people and we’re only just beginning to see our handiwork played out.

    Yet we cannot take the global warming issue in isolation. Mankind faces a host of potentially existential threats – deforestation, desertification, air/soil/water contamination, resource depletion and exhaustion (particularly groundwater), overpopulation and resulting mass migration (wait a few years), species extinction (especially global fisheries collapse), cyclical floods and droughts, species and pest migration, disease migration, global security threats including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, food insecurity and the destabilizing realignment of economic, political and military power bases with the ascendancy of the emerging economic superpowers and the decline of the West.

    What we refuse to acknowledge, Christine, are the common threads that run through all of these challenges. Those threads actually lead us to their solutions. As Jared Diamond pointed out in “Collapse” we have to solve all of these if we’re to solve any of them. Yet we remain shackled to 18th century economics, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geopolitics – the very influences responsible for the scourges that confront us. They were developed to suit the needs of a planet of no more than three-billion people. They exceeded their utility in the early 60’s. Our species has been defying gravity ever since.

    This isn’t some granola-munching lament, it’s inescapable reality. Most of these issues are tangible, many are even visible to the eye from space. They are irrefutable, undeniable.

    • Christine permalink*
      2011/09/10 3:38 pm

      There’s nothing in your statement that I disagree with, MoS! And in fact, that’s one of the things that makes this problem so challenging but also so potentially game-changing. If humanity figures out a way to address climate change, it will be a great democratizer (hmm not sure if that’s a word). Communities will need to band together, and depend on each other in a way that we haven’t needed to for much of the last century. And it turns out that the best way to stabilize and/or slow down population growth is to educate women. Green energy also means cleaner air and water. We will either figure out a way to cooperate for the good of us all, or we will be the first species in the earth’s history to have caused its own extinction.

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