Hurricane Harvey: Climate Change Offers a Wake-Up Call for What is to Come

As if Harvey and flooding in India weren’t enough, Irma is bearing down on the Atlantic Coast with devastating potential and flooding in India is killing thousands. While the GOP wears blinders, scientists predict this pattern is the new normal. Post includes a brilliant short video explaining how climate change will drive more catastrophic climate events.

Before we dive into the correlation between climate change and recent and future catastrophic climate events, a couple of announcements:

  • Sunday, Sept 3, Community Conversation Canvassing Launch scheduled for Sunday is being postponed, due to Labor Day weekend. Of course, those of you who have been trained and have materials can canvass any time you want. Next launch will be Wednesday and Sunday at 4pm at 1420. Remember, you do not need to be an expert on issues to do this form of canvassing. You just have to be willing to talk with neighbors and help us identify potential supporters, people who want to advocate for justice.
  • Monday, Sept. 4, Labor Day, 1pm, 1420 Cerrillos, Celebration of the Life of Susan Popovich, followed by a Labor Day picnic at Young Park from 2-4pm.
  • Thursday, Sept. 7, from 6-8pm, the Local Advocacy & Research Team will be meeting to discuss how we can become proactively involved in city plans related to housing, community development, gentrification and other issues that impact justice in Santa Fe. This meeting we will devote considerable time to understanding the City’s launch of planning related to affordable housing and explore options like Community Land Trusts as alternatives that protect communities against gentrification and keep housing affordable. This will be the subject of our Tuesday post.  Click here to RSVP on Facebook or just write to volunteer4retake@gmail.com.
  • Friday, Sept 8, 2pm. Protest against the Estrada. We are treading very lightly here as this is such a complex issue with positions held very passionately–and for good reason. The conflict at the heart of the Entrada has been festering for hundreds of years. Retake is in no position to solve this issue and is even hesitant to try to present a balanced report on it as ‘balance’ is very elusive on this issue. We do believe some kind of change of this event must occur to achieve any kind of reconciliation and we hope to present a panel discussion on the issue some time in the future. But, we would be remiss if we did not inform our supporters of the protest, which is not a Retake event. For a New Mexican article on the Estrada and the source of the conflict, click here. For more information on the protest  and to RSVP, click here.

Does Climate Change Contribute to More Catastrophic Climate Events and More Devastating Ones? 

This past week we have seen the effects of Hurricane Harvey and monsoons in India, with incomprehensible levels of rain falling in and around Houston and Louisiana and even more devastating monsoons in India. This post examines a Truth-Out report on the correlation between the increase in frequency and intensity of these extreme weather events and climate change with a three-minute video provided that amplifies with great clarity on the correlation between climate change and these events. A Yes! Magazine article points to the correlation between political decisions and a failure to invest wisely in infrastructure and services increases dramatically the human suffering that occurs during these events. Finally, two more short videos are provided below on each of these climate disasters, prefaced by a short, but very clear video describing how climate change is contributing to our seeing more extreme weather events and events of far greater consequence.

If Harvey and the monsoons in India were not enough, Hurricane Irma is building strength and is bearing down on the Caribbean/ While scientists are unclear exactly when Irma will hit, CNN reported that “Irma was designated a tropical storm Wednesday morning, and by Thursday afternoon, it had strengthened into a large Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 115 mph. Such explosive strengthening is known as “rapid intensification,” defined by the National Hurricane Center as having its wind speed increase at least 30 knots (35 mph) in 24 hours.”  This rapid intensification is precisely the dynamic that caused Harvey to build into such a large storm and what contributed to its stalling over Houston, dumping huge amounts of rain for days. While last night Irma appeared to weaken, the US Weather Service advises monitoring the storm closely as it could impact the entire Atlantic coast. Click here for more on Irma.

But late summer has long been hurricane season, why are there so many and so catastrophic climate events?  Truthout examined the issue and concluded:  “What made Harvey so brutal? Scientific studies have shown for quite some time that Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) amplifies the impacts of hurricanes by causing them to have larger storm surges, higher wind speeds and greater rainfall amounts. All of these are driven by the amount of heat in the oceans. According to a study by Ars Technica, this past winter, for the first time on record, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73°F. These conditions set the stage for what we are witnessing now: Warming waters intensify the strength and impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes, as previous studies have shown.” Truthout cited a recent Atlantic report where The Atlantic asked an atmospheric scientist how the strength of hurricanes is correlated with warming seas:  “Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research told The Atlantic. “Although these storms occur naturally, the storm is apt to be more intense, maybe a bit bigger, longer-lasting, and with much heavier rainfalls [because of that ocean heat].” Click here for the very thorough Truth-Out report.

While climate change is certainly contributing to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, as pointed out in Yes! Magazine’s article Harvey Is Not A “Natural” Disaster: Politics Created the Chaos, it is political decisions that has caused many of our communities to be especially vulnerable to storms we know will come eventually. “But climate change does not affect people’s vulnerabilities to the hurricane. Neither the climate nor the hurricane’s characteristics made Houston an industrial center of 2.3 million people (2017 estimate), an increase of 40 percent since 1990. They did not force Texans to build along the coast or in floodplains without adequate measures, as occurs around the U.S. They did not pave over green spaces, leading to reduced rainfall absorption. And they did not create the ingrained racism and desperate social inequities prevalent across the state.” The article goes on to describe specific steps that the nation, states and municipalities can do to help prepare for the disasters that we know will come and to prevent human suffering. But ultimately, as Yes! points out: “Many in Texas vote for lower taxes, for less government intervention, against tackling systemic inequities, and against helping marginalized people help themselves. This choice actively creates the vulnerabilities that cause disasters. It is an ideological choice to vote for creating disaster vulnerability, and voters have the right to do so. The consequences are known based on decades of disaster science.” To access the full article, click here.

While Houston and Louisiana have been ravaged by Harvey, in India the scope of monsoon devastation has been even worse with 1200 dead and over 50 million Indians impacted. Scientists have long predicted that it would be in Africa, India and South America that the most devastating impacts from increased catastrophic climate events would occur and that it would be the poor in those communities who suffer most.  Click here for more on the flooding in India.

No question, climate change and climate events are complicated issues and it is very hard to pinpoint whether any one event is directly caused by climate change, a reality that is exploited disingenuously by Trump, his administration, the GOP and climate denying media (i.e. Fox). But the first 3-minute video below does an excellent job of making a complex issue quite clear. I highly recommend also viewing the two even shorter videos that follow. One video shows the impact of the flooding in Houston along with description of the changes that need to take place to prevent further destruction, some of which amplifies on what was reported in the Yes! article above. The third video shows the devastation in India. The chart at left describes the scope of the flooding in India, but it is video of what is happening on the ground where you can get a far better picture of the human impact.

Retake will continue to shine the light on the impacts of these kinds of events while also advocating for local and state policies with our partner New Energy Economy.

In solidarity,

Roxanne and Paul

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