Cyclone

#StopAdani We can’t afford the damage bills! #ClimateChange record $306 Billion in U.S. 2017

Natural disasters caused record $306 billion in damage to U.S. in 2017

Doyle RiceUpdated 4:46 p.m. ET Jan. 8, 2018

AUSTIN — A trio of monster hurricanes and a ferocious wildfire season led to the costliest year for natural disasters on record in the U.S. in 2017, with nearly a third of a trillion dollars in damage, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday.

The U.S. endured 16 separate weather and climate disasters with losses that each exceeded $1 billion last year, with total costs of about $306 billion, a new record for the country. It broke the previous record set in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and other disasters caused $215 billion in damage to the U.S.

Last year’s disasters killed 362 people in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, NOAA said. However, NOAA climatologist Adam Smith said the death toll could increase based on information that continues to come in from Puerto Rico.

It was also the most expensive hurricane season on record at $265 billion and the costliest wildfire season on record at $18 billion, Smith said.

The news comes only weeks after the House passed an $81 billion disaster aid package. The Senate did not take up the bill and is working on its own version.

Hurricane Harvey racked up total damage costs of $125 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina in the 38-year period of record keeping for billion-dollar disasters. Rainfall from Harvey caused massive flooding that displaced more than 30,000 people and damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 homes and businesses, NOAA said.

Hurricanes Maria and Irma totaled $90 billion and $50 billion in damage, respectively. Maria now ranks as the third-costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation and Irma ranks as the fifth-costliest.

The total of last year’s disaster costs is nearly the same as Denmark’s gross domestic product, which the World Bank tallied at $306.9 billion in 2016.

Climate change is “playing an increasing role in the increasing frequency of some types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters, most notably the rise in vulnerability to drought, lengthening wildfire seasons and the potential for extremely heavy rainfall and inland flooding,” Smith said.

Another expert, University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd, said that “while we have to be careful about knee-jerk cause-effect discussions, the National Academy of Science and recent peer-reviewed literature continue to show that some of today’s extremes have climate change fingerprints on them.”

The announcement came at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin.

As for temperatures in 2017, the U.S. sweltered through its 3rd-warmest year on record, trailing only 2012 and 2016, NOAA said.

For the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous U.S. and Alaska was warmer than average.

Five states — Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Carolina — experienced their warmest year on record. Thirty-two additional states, including Alaska, had annual temperatures that ranked among the 10 warmest on record.

“While the weather can change on a dime, our climate is steadily warming,” said Shaun Martin of the World Wildlife Fund. “Each year provides another piece of evidence in what science has already confirmed — the consequences of rising temperatures are putting people and wildlife at risk.”

“In the U.S., we’re seeing more severe droughts, wildfires, crop losses and more frequent coastal storms with deadly impacts,” Martin added.

Global temperature data for 2017 will be released on Jan. 18 by NOAA and NASA.

Press link for more: USA TODAY

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What will it take to avoid collapse? #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?

By Jeremy Lent

For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky.

Then it was gone.

Last month, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity.

Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.”

They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world.

In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the Earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.”

This second warning contains a series of charts showing how utterly the world’s leaders ignored what they were told 25 years earlier.

Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday.

The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: In 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it’s been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.

Charts from “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice”

Along with their warning, the scientists list a dozen or so examples of the kind of actions that could turn humanity’s trajectory around.

These include indisputably necessary strategies such as halting the conversion of native habitats into farmland; restoring and rewilding ecologies; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; and promoting dietary shifts toward plant-based foods. With the future of humanity at stake, why aren’t we already doing these things?

What will it really take for our civilization to change course and save itself from destruction?

Ignoring Climate Breakdown

We can begin to answer that simply by looking at the media’s reception to this warning.

With 15,000 scientists—including Jane Goodall, E. O. Wilson and James Hansen—declaring a potential catastrophe at hand, you might think this would make headlines everywhere.

Think again.

While it led to a few short articles in select publications around the world, with the one commendable exception of CNN, it was virtually ignored by American mainstream media.

This should hardly come as a surprise.

In fact, global climate breakdown—perhaps the greatest existential threat faced by our civilization—is barely considered newsworthy on American television.

In 2016, the hottest year on record, when the Paris agreement was signed and presidential candidates held widely differing opinions on climate change, the entire year’s climate coverage by all network news services in the U.S. amounted to less than an hour: a paltry 50 minutes, representing a 66 percent drop from the previous year.

How could that be?

One reason is that, as a result of decades of massive industry consolidation, the U.S. media is controlled by a few large corporations.

Like all shareholder-owned companies, their overriding concern is making profits, in this case from advertising dollars.

The news services, once considered a hallowed responsibility administered for the public good, have been reduced to just another profit center—and it was decided that climate change news isn’t good for advertising revenue, especially since a big chunk of that comes from the fossil fuel and agribusiness companies responsible for much of the problem.

The Largest Ponzi Scheme in History

Which leads us to some of the underlying structural changes that need to occur if human civilization is to avoid collapse.

The fundamental problem is brutally simple: Our world system is based on the premise of perpetual growth in consumption, which puts it on a collision course with the natural world.

Either the global system has to be restructured, or we are headed for a catastrophe of immense proportions that has never been experienced in human history.

However, the transnational corporations largely responsible for driving this trajectory are structurally designed to prevent the global changes that need to take place.

Something that is only dimly understood outside financial circles is that the vast bulk of the wealth enjoyed by the global elite is based on a fabrication: a belief in the future growth in earnings that corporations will deliver.

For example, the current P/E ratio of the S&P; 500 is about 23, which means that investors are valuing companies at 23 times their earnings for this year.

Another way of looking at it is that less than 5 percent of the wealth enjoyed by investors relates to current activity; the rest is based on the dream of future growth.

Historically, investors have been richly rewarded for this dream.

The world’s economic output is roughly 20 times greater than it was in 1950, and market valuations have increased accordingly.

But this is the same growth that is driving our civilization to collapse.

Today’s market values are based on a belief that the world’s economic output will triple from its current level by 2060.

That implies three times as much pillaging of the world’s resources than the rate that has led to the scientists’ dire warning to humanity.

Something has to give.

Like any Ponzi scheme, this global growth frenzy is based on maintaining the illusion for as long as possible.

Once it becomes clear that this rate of growth is truly unsustainable, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

We saw in the 2008 financial meltdown a relatively tame dress rehearsal for what a full-scale financial collapse would look like.

This is what the global power brokers don’t want anyone to think about.

It’s ultimately why the media obsesses with Donald Trump’s latest tweets rather than the devastation caused by climate breakdown-induced hurricanes.

Like passengers moving deckchairs on the Titanic, much of the world’s population has been hypnotized by a daily onslaught of celebrity spats and political feuds—anything to avoid the realization that we are all heading for collapse in order to keep the affluent in luxury.

It is a testament to their success so far that, in the words of Slavoj Žižek, it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”

Imagining the End of Capitalism

However, the only thing that will truly avert collapse will be a radical restructuring of the economic system that is driving us ever more rapidly to that precipice.

This will only come about when enough of us are ready to jettison the consumer values that pervasive mainstream culture foists on us.

In their place, we need to find other sources for meaning in our lives: growing the quality of our experiences rather than our consumption, building our communities together and reconnecting with the natural world.

On that basis, we’ll be better equipped to join in the struggle to save humanity—and the rest of the Earth—from the plundering envisaged by the perpetual growth frenzy of global corporate capitalism.

There are plenty of alternative paths available to us—we just don’t hear about them because they never get the media’s attention.

Most Americans, for example, are completely unaware that the little country of Costa Rica, with a GDP per capita less than one-fifth of the U.S., boasts a higher average life expectancy and scores far higher in levels of wellbeing—while producing 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

There is valuable work being done around the world in visualizing a future based on different principles than the current Ponzi scheme.

Well-developed plans to avert climate breakdown include a state-by-state and nation-by-nation pathway to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and a Climate Mobilization Victory Plan to restructure the U.S. economy in a manner similar to what FDR accomplished after Pearl Harbor.

There are radically different ways for a society to function effectively that could apply to nations around the world if given half a chance. A flourishing future might involve more cooperative ventures, protection and expansion of the commons, and enhanced global governance with strict penalties for those who destroy ecological wellbeing. Collapse isn’t the only future in store for humanity—it’s merely the one we’re headed for unless and until we change course. Since the mainstream media isn’t going to get the word out, it has to be up to each of us who cares about the future of the human race. So, let’s get to it.

Jeremy Lent is author of “The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning,” which investigates how different cultures have made sense of the universe and how their underlying values have changed the course of history. He is founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, dedicated to fostering a sustainable worldview.

Press link for more: Ecowatch.com

Mega disasters. They’re going to get worse. #StopAdani #ClimateChange #auspol

Megadisasters devastated America this year.

They’re going to get worse.

Storms, fires, floods, and heat caused unprecedented destruction in 2017. Why?

By Umair Irfan and Brian Resnick Dec 28, 2017, 9:40am EST

2017 is about to become the most expensive disaster year in US history, costing nearly $400 billion in damages.

How did that happen? Consider some of the record-breaking weather events that came our way:

• California was drenched in the wettest winter on record, ending years of drought.

• Then came California’s most destructive and largest wildfire season ever. The Tubbs Fire in Northern California killed 22 people and damaged more than 5,600 structures.

• Hurricane Harvey broke a rainfall record for a single tropical storm with more than 4 feet of rain.

• Puerto Rico is still mired in the longest blackout in US history after Hurricane Maria struck three months ago. More than 1,000 are estimated to have died in the storm and its aftermath.

San Francisco reported its hottest temperature ever, 106 degrees Fahrenheit, while other parts of the country set records for high-temperature streaks.

• 14 places across Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas reported record-high water levels during floods in April and May.

• Requests for federal disaster aid jumped tenfold compared to 2016, with 4.7 million people registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As of October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had counted 15 disasters with damages topping $1 billion, tying 2017 with 2011 for the most billion-dollar disasters in a year to date. And that was before the California wildfires. (We included some of those fires in the map below):

The unending string of calamities was shocking to many Americans. As Paolo Bacigalupi, who writes climate dystopia fiction, tweeted in August: “The thing that bothers me most about these unprecedented disasters is that even I imagined they wouldn’t happen for a long time yet.”

Yet we must see 2017 as an average year, if not a baseline. We must reckon with the likelihood of even worse storms, heat waves, fires, and droughts as the Earth warms — because scientists expect even this “new normal” to get worse.

The reasons for this are many: As the climate changes, the US is becoming much more vulnerable to disasters. People keep flocking to live in places we know are likely to be hit. And our policies don’t protect them, not by a long shot.

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned from 2017, and what they suggest for how to prepare for future catastrophes.

What 2017 taught us about climate and extreme weather

Climate scientists have been warning about extreme weather, that it would become more frequent and intense in new ways. Yet 2017 still seemed like a brutal wake-up call to nature’s extraordinary power, and the frightening possibilities of this warmer world.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about why some weather is so extreme and how much climate change is to blame (especially when it comes to hurricanes). But 2017 gave us more clues about what we can expect in the world to come, hints that hopefully will help us prepare for the future.

This is what we understand about the connections between climate change and the disasters we saw this year.

Floods and rain

The year started off with torrential rainfall in California, marking the wettest winter in a century. Parched after years of drought, the rainfall officially brought the dry spell to an end as floods inundated hundreds of homes, landslides buried roads, and high water levels threatened to burst dams. Flooding across Missouri and Arkansas in the spring also claimed 20 lives and carried a $1.7 billion price tag.

California’s Oroville Dam suffered damage to its spillway after record rainfall, forcing almost 200,000 people to evacuate. Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Rainfall, both the amount and the rate, represents one of the strongest signals of climate change. Warmer air increases the evaporation rate of water, and for every degree Celsius increase in temperature, a parcel of air can hold 7 percent more water.

Average annual rainfall across the United States has gone up by 5 percent since 1990, though there’s regional variation, according to the National Climate Assessment.

Scientists have found that the amount of rain dished out by heavy rainstorms has gone up 10 percent since 1900 due to global warming. Extreme rainfall events are trending upward, and nine of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have happened since 1990.

And all this moisture-laden air helped drive the powerful hurricanes that made landfall in the United States.

“Hurricanes live and die by the amount of rainfall they make out of moisture,” George Huffman, a research meteorologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told Vox.

The three biggest hurricanes of 2017 making landfall in the US. Courtesy of Chris Dolce

Hurricanes

“To say this hurricane season has been historic is an understatement,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long told Congress in October.

Harvey, Irma, and Maria all made landfall as powerful Category 4 storms with winds exceeding 130 mph. Harvey in particular dumped a truly staggering amount of rain over Houston. The estimated 24 trillion gallons that fell there was so heavy it actually depressed the earth more than half an inch in some spots, according to preliminary analysis from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

These are the types of storms climate scientists expect to see more of in a warmer world.

Hurricane Harvey dumped somewhere between 24 and 34 trillion gallons on Texas and Louisiana. Javier Zarracina/Vox

First off, yes: There’s consensus that the science of climate change predicts that in a warming world, hurricanes will become more intense, carry more rain, and cause worse coastal flooding linked in part to sea level rise.

But here’s the thing: We don’t yet currently know, conclusively, that the hurricane season as a whole represents a result of climate change. “At this point it’s really uncertain if there’s any detectable human influence on any hurricane or tropical cyclone metric,” Tom Knutson, an NOAA meteorologist who studies hurricanes, told Vox in October.

There’s just not enough data. Meteorologists have only been tracking hurricanes with satellites since the 1970s. It’s possible that historic hurricane records, which go back to the 1800s, are incomplete or have inaccurate information on wind speeds and size. Considering how hurricanes have been lashing against the Atlantic’s coasts for untold epochs, we just have a tiny slice of data to determine what’s “normal.”

While it’s hard to say if the punishing number and intensity of storms were due to climate change, climate scientists have now determined — in two separate research efforts — that Hurricane Harvey’s record-blasting rains (best measured in feet for much of Houston) were likely amplified by climate change.

“Human-induced climate change likely increased Harvey’s total rainfall around Houston by at least 19 percent, with a best estimate of 37 percent,” Michael Wehner, a co-author on an attribution study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, said at the American Geophysical Union conference in December. And the corresponding study in Environmental Research Letters concluded that climate change increased flooding by around 15 percent.

Even with climate change, Harvey’s rain was an extremely rare event, expected not to return for thousands of years, Karin van der Wiel, a co-author of the Environmental Research Letters study, said. Still, the odds of seeing such an extreme event have changed, she says. “It’s between 1.5 and 5 times more likely now than in pre-industrial times.”

What’s still not known: Did climate change alter the odds of seeing three incredibly strong storms — Harvey, Irma, Maria — in a row this season?

“We tend to look at [hurricanes] one at a time,” Wehner said. “What’s the probability of having three extraordinary events? What’s the probability of having $250 billion in damage one season? That’s a blind spot.”

Heat waves

In June, the Western US experienced the most intense heat wave ever to strike so early in the year, leading to dozens of flight cancellations. On June 21, Ocotillo Wells, California, reported a temperature of 124 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest reading ever in San Diego County.

A map of how much higher temperatures were this year relative to the average between 1895 and 2017. NOAA

Farther north, Olympia, Washington, set a June temperature record of 98 degrees Fahrenheit. The searing heat persisted throughout July in the Pacific Northwest, and was followed by another wave in October, as high temperatures rippled through the Midwest and reached triple digits around Los Angeles, shattering records.

Wildfires

One of the biggest factors in this year’s record wildfire season was, oddly, rainfall.

Vegetation across much of the drought-stricken west eagerly soaked up the surfeit of water from the wet winter, leading to a rapid, vast growth spurt in trees, grasses, and shrubs in the spring. Then summer and fall brought intense heat that dried out these plants, turning the greenery into fuel.

Wildfires began igniting over the summer, sending choking air pollution through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and California. Huge new fires appeared in subsequent months, causing record damage, including the ongoing fires around Los Angeles that are poised to burn the rest of the year. The Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, at more than 280,000 acres, is the largest fire in California history. Across the United States, more than 9.5 million acres have burned to date, making 2017 the second-worst year for fires in terms of area.

A Los Angeles County firefighter monitors approaching flames on October 9. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

But the wildfires that scorched vast swaths of the US this year can scarcely be described as natural disasters, since human activities exacerbated them at every step.

“The context for this is as much about society living in these very fire-prone environments as it is about the climate,” said Tim Brown, director of NOAA’s Western Regional Climate Center. “One significant difference is we’ve had very significant population growth and urban development here since the 1960s.”

And changes in the climate are making many of these wildfires worse. Researchers found that human-caused climate change accounts for 55 percent of the increase in drying out of Western forests, a major factor in wildfires, and has led to a doubling of the area burned.

But as with hurricanes, there is some nuance to climate’s role in wildfires. Rising temperatures and less precipitation have had a bigger effect on fire risk in a temperate region like Northern California but has less of an impact in an area that’s already hot and dry, like Los Angeles County.

At the moment, scientists say they haven’t detected a climate signal in fire patterns in this region. But in study published in Environmental Research Letters in 2015, researchers projected that the area scorched by wildfires in Southern California will grow by as much as 77 percent by the middle of the century due to warming.

Why these disaster cost billions

Irma Maldanado stands with Sussury, her parrot, and her dog in what is left of her home in Corozal, Puerto Rico, on September 27. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Worldwide, 2017 is shaping up to be the most expensive year for climate disasters ever. In the US, it’s already the most costly year ever for hurricanes and for wildfires.

Such expensive weather events are part of an ongoing trend. Since 1980, there have been 218 disasters across the United States with costs topping $1 billion. The Congressional Research Service reported earlier this year that inflation-adjusted disaster appropriations have shot up 46 percent from a median of $6.2 billion between 2000 and 2006 to $9.1 billion between 2007 and 2013.

And the price of disaster damage is continuing to go up, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Part of it is that the hurricanes this year really were immense, but they have a bigger impact when they collide with growing cities. As more people compete for real estate, property values have skyrocketed in Florida and California. That means any time a disaster strikes, it becomes horrendously expensive to repair all the infrastructure and personal property.

But it’s still difficult to tabulate the costs of the storms. Many of the dollar values are drawn from insured properties, which represent only a fraction of the devastation. Over the past decade, only 30 percent of catastrophic losses around the world were insured, according to the reinsurance firm Swiss Re. That leaves a gap of $1.7 trillion in uninsured damages.

And for a place like Puerto Rico, still mired in blackout, the estimated $95 billion it will cost to rebuild doesn’t really convey all the suffering caused by the storm. About 43 percent of the island’s 3.3 million residents live below the poverty line, so the dollar amount of the damage may be lower than for places like Houston, Texas, with large homes and expensive industrial facilities.

Now the big question is who pays the bill. FEMA has offered more than $3.3 billion in aid to disaster victims through its Individuals and Households Program and $1.4 billion in public assistance this year. But it’s crunched for cash, as the huge storms and fires have depleted its reserves. An $81 billion emergency disaster relief package for Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, and California is likely to languish for weeks as Congress leaves for the holidays.

The disasters will have long-lasting health effects

The disasters of 2017 took hundreds of lives. Hurricane Maria was especially cruel, with estimates of more than 1,000 deaths in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Harvey was responsible for taking 82 lives. The Tubbs Fire in Northern California killed 22 people. There were at least six deaths attributed to heat waves this year.

Yet the toll of storms, fires, floods, and heat on human health can also be more insidious and can linger for years.

Heat is rarely listed as a cause of death, but it can be a factor in heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory arrests. High temperatures also worsen deadly air pollutants like ozone, which is linked to respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

Smoke inhalation from wildfires can also be deadly over time, since fine smoke particles in the air aggravate asthma, provoke inflammation, and strain the heart and lungs.

When concentrations of very small particles of wood smoke pollution (smaller than 2.5 microns, a.k.a. “PM 2.5”) reach above 10 micrograms per cubic meter, researchers find a 7 percent increase in asthma inhaler refills. “But if there’s a 100 microgram per meter smoke day, we’d expect that to go to a 100 percent increase of inhaler refills for the population,” Katelyn O’Dell, who studies the health hazards of wildfire smoke at Colorado state university said. Many of the wildfires this past year created conditions that exceeded this level of pollution.

Researchers expect that as climate change makes wildfires more likely over the course of this century, deaths and illnesses attributed to pollution from wood smoke will rise too, even offsetting gains made from cleaning up emissions from industry.

And the fury of a hurricane can leave people scraped, bruised, crushed, or drowned. When a storm cuts off electricity, other dangers abound. “Just about every interaction with the health system now involves electricity, from calling a hospital for help to accessing electronic medical records and powering lifesaving equipment like hemodialysis machines or ventilators,” Vox’s Julia Belluz wrote in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Smoke from the Thomas Fire on December 12 in Carpinteria, California. David McNew/Getty Images

Disasters are a strain not just on physical health but on mental health as well. “Expect a burden of mental health problems, which will include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and it’s particularly going to impact groups who don’t have access to rapid opportunities for recovery,” Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, told Vox after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

After a major disaster, studies find a 5 to 15 percent increase in the incidence of mental health problems among survivors.

“We all have a threshold that if we watch a loved one swept away in rushing water and drown, that can definitely create post-traumatic stress disorder,” Charles Benight, who studies trauma at the University of Colorado, said during the peak of the hurricane season.

We’ve always been vulnerable to natural disasters. But now the climate is changing.

There are few signs at the local or federal level that policymakers are taking the risks of climate change and extreme weather seriously, and some forces are even exacerbating the risk.

Engineers have long known that Houston is especially prone to flooding, yet land developers have acted as though the risk is nonexistent for decades. Future development will need to reckon with a need for better drainage.

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As sea levels rise and disaster risks to coastal communities grow, some planners are broaching the idea of a “strategic retreat” from areas that face persistent floods and fires. And based on projections showing these events happening over and over, we should be saving up money to rebuild when these disasters happen again.

But we’re not doing any of that.

International Space Station orbited over Hurricane Harvey and photographed the storm bearing down on the Texas coast. NASA

Instead, programs like the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, which helps homeowners pay for damage from floods, ends up encouraging people to rebuild in areas that are likely to get flooded again. In one egregious case, a Houston home valued at $115,000 flooded 18 times in 16 years, costing the government $800,000.

We see similar problems with fire insurance in California, which lets homeowners rebuild a torched home, though some insurers are dropping homeowners in high fire risk areas. And as insurance rates rise, fewer people are buying insurance at all, which ends up passing recovery costs to the federal government.

Meanwhile, the Stafford Act limits federal reconstruction efforts to restoring the status quo ante. That means for a place like Puerto Rico, whose energy infrastructure vulnerabilities were laid bare after Hurricane Maria, there isn’t much room in the budget to make power lines, generators, and transformers more resistant to future disasters.

Even without the threat of climate change, we’ve long known that hurricanes are dangerous. They’ve inflicted grave damage on coastal communities for as long as we’ve had them. Louisiana has long been notorious for flooding, and Arizona renowned for triple-digit heat, and wildfires have always been an iconic part of the American West.

But the climate is changing, and the potential harm from these events is growing. In a recent analysis of climate events from last year, 2016, scientists determined three events — record-breaking global heat, a heat wave over Asia, and a “blob” of unusually warm water in the Northern Pacific — could not have occurred without human-induced climate change. “I’ve never seen that language in a paper until now,” Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which published the report, said. “We’re virtually certain that [these events were] impossible without human-induced climate change.”

So larger hurricanes are coming.

More wildfires will ignite.

Longer heat waves will sear.

And other climate disasters are likely grow bigger, more intense, more expensive, and more frequent.

We see them on the horizon.

And we need to start preparing now.

Press link for more: Vox.com

A look back on 2017 Deadly Extremes #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

From America’s hurricanes to Portugal’s fires, ABC Weather looks back at 2017’s deadly extremes

ABC Weather By Kate Doyle and Ben Deacon

Posted 25 minutes ago

Fri 29 Dec 2017, 6:25am

PHOTO: A helicopter dumps water on a burning house in the Anaheim Hills during October’s California fires. (AP: Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register)

Cyclones, bushfires and heatwaves are typically Australian natural disasters, but in 2017 devastating fires, record heat, hurricanes and typhoons — what we call cyclones — struck around the world.

Here are a few of the events that caught our attention this year.

Cyclone Debbie

It was the cyclone that just kept on going.

Debbie made landfall near Airlie Beach as a category 4 system on March 28 with wind gusts of 263 kilometres per hour recorded at Hamilton Island, the highest gust ever recorded in the Queensland digital climate archive, and its initial impact was ferocious.

But what set Debbie apart from the average cyclone was the trail of drenching rain it left as its remnants made their way down the Queensland coast and across the New South Wales border.

In an historic move, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk closed all schools south of Agnes Water, north of Bundaberg, and east of Nanango in the South Burnett region, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: SES workers rescue a man from floodwaters in Lismore (ABC News)

The flooding did not stop at the border as far south in Lismore, NSW, 324.8 millimetres fell in 18 hours, leading to the highest river levels since 1974 and waist-high flooding in the CBD when the town’s levee breached.

Media reports attributed nine deaths to Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia.

Debbie did not just leave it at that, as New Zealand’s North Island was drenched when the tail end of the system made its way across the Tasman a week after it first made landfall in Queensland.

Thousands of homes were evacuated there as well.

Pakistan record heat

In May, there was a major heat event which affected most of the Persian Gulf but seemed to go largely under the radar in western media.

The town of Turbat in south-west Pakistan recorded 54.0 degrees Celsius, equal to the maximum temperature recorded in Mitrabah, Kuwait in July last year.

Neither of the temperatures have been officially confirmed by the World Meteorological Organisation, but if it turns out to be legitimate will be a new Asian record.

These record high temperatures stir up debate around the global highest recorded temperature.

The current record of 56.7C taken in Death Valley, USA, in 1913 is viewed with scepticism because of dubious equipment.

Likewise the eastern hemisphere record of 55.0 recorded in Kebili, Tunisia, is also questionable due to inconsistencies in previous temperature recording practices.

So it could well be that the hottest temperature directly recorded on Earth happened this year.

Australia’s official hottest temperature was recorded at Oodnadatta in 1960 at 50.7 degrees Celsius.

US hurricane cluster

Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, and Maria — the US was battered by hurricane after hurricane this year.

Of these, Harvey, Irma and Maria did the most damage.

3 hurricanes threatening land simultaneously in the W Atlantic Basin. Never seen anything like this in the modern record #Irma #Jose

Harvey led the pack as the first major hurricane to hit the mainland US in almost a decade when it stalled over Houston and led to widespread, devastating flooding.

Hurricane Irma, even stronger than Harvey, battered the Caribbean before travelling across Cuba, to make landfall in Florida.

What made Irma special meteorologically was the length of time it maintained extremely high wind speeds, more than 297km/h for 37 hours, far and away the highest ever recorded.

Maria’s biggest impact was on Puerto Rico, where US media reports suggest the death toll was at least 48 people.

As of early December, around one million people on the island were still without power, more than two months after the hurricane ripped through on September 20.

East Africa drought

UN data suggests there are more than 15.2 million people who remain severely food insecure on the horn of Africa as of December 8.

Some parts received decent rain in October and November this year but it will take time for those benefits to trickle through, especially when coupled with other conflicts.

For other areas, this will be the fourth consecutive year the rains have failed.

As with many of the other events on this list, the question of whether climate change is to blame has been raised and, as with many other events, the answers are complicated.

Extreme cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons are expected to be less common because of climate change, but could be worse when they do hit because of their increased capacity to dump more rain and rising oceans.

Likewise, extreme fires are expected to be worsened by higher temperatures and longer fire seasons.

With the East African drought though, the role of climate change is not definitive.

Portugal fires

Portugal suffered two major rounds of deadly fires this year, one in June and one in October.

The July fires led to 62 deaths and the October fires killed more than 40 people.

The July fires took place during a heatwave when there were several days in a row above 40C.

The October fires were whipped up by the passing of Hurricane Ophelia.

The unusually placed storm was in the area thanks its formation much further north east than a normal Atlantic hurricane, combined with a run-in with the mid-latitude jet stream. It made a beeline for Ireland rather than taking the typical route and heading for the Americas.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Rare fire devil on camera in Portugal (ABC News)

As with the Californian fires later in the year, there has been speculation that introduced eucalypts contributed to the rapid spread of these fires.

South Asia floods

It was reported that more than 1,300 people died in the flooding that hit India, Bangladesh and Nepal in mid-August this year.

These fires were not just significant because Ellen DeGeneres and Paris Hilton’s homes were evacuated, the fires in early October led to tens of thousands of people being forced to flee their homes and more than 40 people lost their lives.

Entire suburbs were reduced to rubble.

Firefighters faced the impossible task of fighting 14 fires at once in gusts of up to 120km/h with low relative humidity.

The fires were fanned by what are known as the ‘Diablo’ winds in Northern California.

Like their more well-known Southern Californian counterpart, the Santa Ana winds, they come from over the continent bringing hot dry conditions.

Diablo winds are traditionally associated with wildfires, especially in autumn.

Victoria storms

Although many in Melbourne were underwhelmed by the much-publicised December storms, there was no denying the rainfall totals in north-east Victoria were record-breaking.

Echuca, Euroa and Eildon all recorded their highest daily rainfall totals on record.

Rainfall Totals

Location Rainfall (mm) Duration of Records (years)

Echuca. 123 159

Euroa. 146. 132

Eildon. 149. 131

Record breaking rainfall totals recorded in the 24 hours to 9 am December 21 2017

The storm set off debate surrounding natural disaster messaging in Australia and is a timely reminder to be prepared heading into the traditional summer disaster period.

Philippines typhoon and landslides

On December 16, Tropical Storm Kia-tak — known locally as Urduja — made landfall in the Philippines.

Severe flooding and landsides were triggered when two months of rain fell in 48 hours.

Less than two weeks later, Typhoon Tembin — also known as Typhoon Vinta — hit the Philippines.

So far, more than 250 people are confirmed dead as a result of the storm.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Landslides kill 32 in storm-hit Philippine province (ABC News)

Central Australian floods

Technically during the dying days of 2016, but close enough that we thought it warranted a mention, the flooding rains that hit central Australia on Christmas night were described as a once in a half-century storm by the Bureau of Meteorology.

In Kintore 61.4mm fell between 8:00pm and 9:00pm alone, and 232mm fell in the 24 hours after 9:00am on Christmas Day.

The widespread flooding closed the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and several locations were cut off for weeks.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

Climate Change is happening faster than expected! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate Change Is Happening Faster Than Expected, and It’s More Extreme

Scientists warned in 2017 that not enough has been done to protect millions of people from an expected increase in dangerous heat waves. Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

In the past year, the scientific consensus shifted toward a grimmer and less uncertain picture of the risks posed by climate change.

When the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its 5th Climate Assessment in 2014, it formally declared that observed warming was “extremely likely” to be mostly caused by human activity.

This year, a major scientific update from the United States Global Change Research Program put it more bluntly: “There is no convincing alternative explanation.”

Other scientific authorities have issued similar assessments:

• The Royal Society published a compendium of how the science has advanced, warning that it seems likelier that we’ve been underestimating the risks of warming than overestimating them.

• The American Meteorological Society issued its annual study of extreme weather events and said that many of those it studied this year would not have been possible without the influence of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said recent melting of the Arctic was not moderating and was more intense than at any time in recorded history.

While 2017 may not have hit a global temperature record, it is running in second or third place, and on the heels of records set in 2015 and 2016. Talk of some kind of “hiatus” seems as old as disco music.

‘A Deadly Tragedy in the Making’

Some of the strongest warnings in the Royal Society update came from health researchers, who said there hasn’t been nearly enough done to protect millions of vulnerable people worldwide from the expected increase in heat waves.

“It’s a deadly tragedy in the making, all the worse because the same experts are saying such heat waves are eminently survivable with adequate resources to protect people,” said climate researcher Eric Wolff, lead author of the Royal Society update.

Atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said climate science has progressed in all directions since the IPCC report was published in 2014. He works with a group of scientists trying to update the IPCC reporting process to make it more fluid and meaningful in real time.

The need to build resilience is clear and missing in action,” Trenberth said. “The result is we suffer the consequences at costs of hundreds of billions of dollars.”

One of the starkest conclusions of the Royal Society update is that up to 350 million people in places like Karachi, Kolkota, Lagos and Shanghai are likely to face deadly heat waves every year by 2050—even if nations are able to rein in greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as per the Paris climate agreement.

There’s also an increasing chance global warming will affect a key North Atlantic current that carries ocean heat from the tropics toward western Europe, according to a 2016 study. It shows the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current weakening by 37 percent by 2100, which could have big effects on European climate and food production.

Melting Ice and Risks to Oceans and Ecosystems

The Royal Society report also notes:

• An increasing risk that ocean acidification will rapidly and significantly alter many ecosystems and food webs;

• A concern that crops grown in high-CO2 conditions could be less nutritious, leading to mineral deficiencies;

• That the commonly accepted wet-areas-wetter and dry-areas-drier scenario has regional nuances with important implications for local water management and food production planning; and,

• That scientists are finding more links between melting Arctic sea ice and weather extremes like heat waves, droughts and blizzards.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, an interagency group whose work went through exhaustive peer review and emerged from the Trump administration’s political review mostly unscathed, also cited several emerging conclusions that are much clearer today than five years ago.

Among them are changes in ocean ecosystems that go far beyond rising sea levels. Ocean acidification is increasing, as is oxygen loss, and scientists are more acutely aware than before of the severity of their impacts. In some U.S. coastal waters, these trends are “raising the risk of serious ecological and economic consequences,” the report noted.

The most ominous of its chapters addressed the risks of surprises like “tipping points” or “compound extremes”—sucker punches, combination punches, and even knockout punches. “The more the climate changes, the greater the potential for these,” it said.

“Uncertainty is not our friend here,” said Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. “We are seeing increases in extreme weather events that go well beyond what has been predicted or projected in the past. We’re learning that there are factors we were not previously aware of that may be magnifying the impacts of human-caused climate change.” Among those are “subtle mechanisms involving the behavior of the jet stream that may be involved in explaining the dramatic increase we’ve seen in floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires,” he said.

“Increasingly, the science suggests that many of the impacts are occurring earlier and with greater amplitude than was predicted,” Mann said, after considering new research since the milestone of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment, which served as the scientific basis for the Paris Agreement.

“We have literally, in the space of a year, doubled our assessment of the potential sea level rise we could see by the end of this century. That is simply remarkable. And it is sobering,” he said.

In general, there should be more monitoring of global warming impacts, but all those programs are threatened under the current administration, Mann said. “Continued funding to support research is critical,” he said, “and here, again, we encounter a very unfavorable political environment where fossil fuel-beholden politicians that run the White House and Congress are doing everything they can to defund and suppress research on climate change science and impact assessments.”

Press link for more: Inside Climate News

2016 Global Heatwaves due to Climate Change #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #OnePlanet

Global heat waves in 2016 due purely to climate change: study

The findings mark the first time that global scientists have identified severe weather that could not have happened without climate change, said the peer-reviewed report titled “Explaining Extreme Events in 2016 from a Climate Perspective.”

Until now, the contribution of human-driven climate change has been understood to raise the odds of certain floods, droughts, storms and heat waves — but not serve as the sole cause.

“This report marks a fundamental change,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which published the peer-reviewed report.

“For years scientists have known humans are changing the risk of some extremes. But finding multiple extreme events that weren’t even possible without human influence makes clear that we’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate.”

The report included 27 peer-reviewed analyses of extreme weather across five continents and two oceans.

A total of 116 scientists from 18 countries took part, incorporating historical observations and model simulations to determine the role of climate change in nearly two dozen extreme events.

Records shattered

In 2016, the planet reached a new high for global heat, making it the warmest year in modern times.

These record average surface temperatures worldwide were “only possible due to substantial centennial-scale anthropogenic warming,” said the report.

Asia also experienced stifling heat, with India suffering a major heat wave that killed 580 people from March to May.

Thailand set a new record for energy consumption as people turned on air conditioners en masse to cool off.

Even though the tropical Pacific Ocean warming trend of El Nino was pronounced in 2015 and the first part of 2016, researchers concluded that it was not to blame.

“The 2016 extreme warmth across Asia would not have been possible without climate change,” said the report.

“Although El Nino was expected to warm Southeast Asia in 2016, the heat in the region was unusually widespread.”

In the Gulf of Alaska, the nearby Bering Sea, and off northern Australia, water temperatures were the highest in 35 years of satellite records.

This ocean warming led to “massive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and one of the largest harmful algal blooms ever off the Alaska shore,” according to the report.

“It was extremely unlikely that natural variability alone led to the observed anomalies.”

Another chapter found that the so-called “blob” of sub-Arctic 2016 warmth “cannot be explained without anthropogenic climate warming.”

Most, not all

Most of the extreme events studied were influenced to some extent by climate change, as in the past six years that the work has been published.

Climate change was found to have boosted the odds and intensity of El Nino, the severity of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, and warmth in the North Pacific Ocean.

Flash droughts over southern Africa, like the one in 2015 and 2016, have tripled in the last 60 years mainly due to human-caused climate change, it said.

“Extreme rains, like the record-breaking 2016 event in Wuhan, China are 10 times more likely in the present climate than they were in 1961.”

The unusual Arctic warmth observed in November–December 2016 “most likely would not have been possible without human-caused warming,” it added.

But not all extreme weather was influenced by global warming.

About 20 percent of the events studied were not linked to human-caused climate change, including a major winter snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic United States, and the drought that led to water shortages in northeast Brazil.

The findings were released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.

Press link for more: SBS.COM.AU

Climate change is the story you missed in 2017. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

By Lisa Hymas

The effect of climate change on extreme weather has been dramatically undercovered’ Photograph: Enterprise/Rex/Shutterstock

Which story did you hear more about this year – how climate change makes disasters like hurricanes worse, or how Donald Trump threw paper towels at Puerto Ricans?

If you answered the latter, you have plenty of company.

Academic Jennifer Good analyzed two weeks of hurricane coverage during the height of hurricane season on eight major TV networks, and found that about 60% of the stories included the word Trump, and only about 5% mentioned climate change.

Trump doesn’t just suck the oxygen out of the room; he sucks the carbon dioxide out of the national dialogue.

Even in a year when we’ve had string of hurricanes, heatwaves, and wildfires worthy of the Book of Revelation – just what climate scientists have told us to expect – the effect of climate change on extreme weather has been dramatically undercovered.

Some of Trump’s tweets generate more national coverage than devastating disasters.

Good’s analysis lines up with research done by my organization, Media Matters for America, which found that TV news outlets gave far too little coverage to the welldocumented links between climate change and hurricanes. ABC and NBC both completely failed to bring up climate change during their news coverage of Harvey, a storm that caused the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the continental US. When Irma hit soon after, breaking the record for hurricane intensity, ABC didn’t do much better.

Coverage was even worse of Hurricane Maria, the third hurricane to make landfall in the US this year. Not only did media outlets largely fail to cover the climate connection; in many cases, they largely failed to cover the hurricane itself.

The weekend after Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, the five major Sunday political talkshows devoted less than one minute in total to the storm and the humanitarian emergency it triggered. And Maria got only about a third as many mentions in major print and online media outlets as did Harvey and Irma, researchers at the MIT Media Lab found.

The media has a responsibility to report the big story, and to help the public understand the immediacy of the threat.

When Trump visited Puerto Rico on 3 October, almost two weeks after Maria assailed the island, he got wall-to-wall coverage as journalists reported on his paper-towel toss and other egregious missteps. But after that trip, prime-time cable news coverage of Puerto Rico’s recovery plummeted, Media Matters found, even though many residents to this day suffer from electricity outages and a lack of clean water, a dire situation that deserves serious and sustained coverage.

Scientists have been telling us that climate change will make hurricanes more intense and dangerous, an unfortunate reality made all too clear by this year’s record-busting hurricane season. “These are precisely the sort of things we expect to happen as we continue to warm the planet,” climate scientist Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, told Huffington Post.

But while nearly three-quarters of Americans know that most scientists are in agreement that climate change is happening, according to recent poll, only 42% of Americans believe climate change will pose a serious threat to them during their lifetimes. Too many still believe – wrongly – that climate disasters are just something that will happen in the future. They are happening now.

In the first nine months of 2017, the US was assailed by 15 weather and climate disasters that each did more than a billion dollars in damage – in the case of the hurricanes, much more. The combined economic hit from Harvey, Irma and Maria could end up being $200bn or more, according to Moody’s Analytics. And then in October, unprecedented wildfires in northern California did an estimated $3bn in damage.

Climate change can be hard to see and intuitively grasp. It’s a relatively slow-moving scientific phenomenon caused by pollution from all around the globe. It’s not usually dramatic to watch like a candidate debate or the fallout from a White House scandal.

But an extreme weather event is a moment when people can see and feel climate change – and if they’re unlucky, get seriously hurt by it. When those disasters happen, media outlets need to cover them as climate change stories. And when a number of them happen in quick succession, as they did this year, the media have an even greater responsibility to report the big-picture story about climate change and help the public understand the immediacy of the threat.

If we are to fend off the worst possible outcomes of climate change, we need to shift as quickly as possible to a cleaner energy system. We could expect more Americans to get on board with that solution if they more fully understood the problem – and that’s where the critical role of the media comes in. As the weather gets worse, we need our journalism to get better.

Lisa Hymas is the climate and energy program director at Media Matters

Press link for more: The Guardian

Science on Climate Change goes from bad to worse #StopAdani

Scientists monitoring the Earth’s climate and environment have delivered a cascade of grim news this year, adding a sense of urgency to UN talks on how best to draw down the greenhouse gases that drive global warming.

Here is a summary of recent findings:

1.1 degrees

Earth’s average surface temperature last year was a record 1.1 degree Celsius (1.98 Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial era.

The planet’s rising fever is caused by the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide (CO2) cast off when fossil fuels are burned to produce energy.

Sixteen of the hottest years on record have occurred since the start of the 21st century, and 2017 is on track to be the warmest year not affected by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

The 196-nation Paris Agreement calls on humanity to block the rise in temperature at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) compared to preindustrial levels, and to strive for a cap of 1.5 C.

403.3 ppm

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached an average of 403.3 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, the highest level in at least 800,000 years.

CO2 emissions—after remaining stable for three years, raising hopes that they had peaked—will rise by two percent in 2017.

Concentrations of methane (CH4), the second most important greenhouse gas, have also risen sharply over the last decade, driven by leakage from the gas industry’s fracking boom and growth in global livestock production.

Many climate scientists argue that capping CO2 at 450 ppm offers a fighting chance at staying under the 2 C threshold. But others say the limit for a “climate safe” world is much lower, at about 350 ppm.

h

Melting ice

Arctic summer sea ice shrank to 4.64 million square kilometres (1.79 million square miles) in 2017, leaving ice extent well above the record low of 3.39 million square kilometres set in 2012.

But long-term trends are unmistakable: Arctic sea ice cover is declining at a rate of 13.2 percent per decade, relative to the 1981-2010 average.

Climate models predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2030.

At the other end of the world, Antarctic sea ice last year hit the lowest extent ever recorded by satellites.

Earth’s two massive ice sheets—atop Greenland and Antarctica—are shedding 286 billion and 127 billion tonnes of mass per year, respectively.

High-altitude glaciers, meanwhile, suffered a decline in surface area in 2016 for the 37th year in a row.

Extreme events

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says there are demonstrable links between climate change caused by human activity and some extreme weather events, especially heatwaves.

The number of climate-related extreme events—such as droughts, forest fires, floods and major storm surges—has doubled since 1990, research has shown.

2017 saw the first severe tropical storm known to sustain winds of 295 kilometres per hour (185 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours (Irma); and a hurricane that dropped a record 125 centimetres of water (nearly 50 inches) on land (Harvey).

The intensity of typhoons battering China, Taiwan, Japan and the Korean Peninsula since 1980, one study has shown, has increased by 12 to 15 percent.

Natural disasters drive about 26 million people into poverty every year, according to the World Bank, and cause annual losses of about $520 million (440 million euros).

84.8 millimetres

Sea level rise—caused mainly by water expanding as it warms, as well as runoff from ice sheets and glaciers—is now 3.4 millimetres (0.13 inches) per year. Since 1993, the global ocean watermark has gone up by 84.8 mm (3.3 inches).

The pace is likely to pick up, threatening the homes and livelihoods of tens of millions of people in low-lying areas around the world.

Global warming is likely to add at least a metre (three feet) to the global watermark by century’s end, according to recent estimates.

1,688 species

Of the 8,688 species of animals and plants listed as “threatened” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, 19 percent have been negatively affected by climate change.

Twenty-five years after 1,700 scientists issued a “warning to humanity” about environmental degradation, more than 15,000 experts updated the alert this month and noted that virtually all the planet’s problems are getting “far worse”.

Scientists say the planet has entered a “mass extinction event”—the sixth in the last half-billion years.

Sources: NASA, National Snow and Ice Data Center, WMO, peer-reviewed studies.

Press link for more: PHYS.ORG

We Depend on our Planet for Everything #COP23 #StopAdani #ClimateChange

COP23 meeting Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director General WHO

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s speech during the COP23 meeting

Bonn, Germany

12 November 2017

Your Excellency Frank Bainimarama, President of COP23 and Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji,

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We depend on our planet for everything we are, and everything we have.

The air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink.

Climate change therefore strikes at the heart of what it means to be human.

It increases the risks of extreme weather events, such as the hurricanes that devastated several Caribbean islands this summer.

I am proud that WHO has responded to these disasters, with our partners, by delivering emergency medical supplies, generators, chlorine tablets and other supplies to alleviate suffering.

Apart from the damage to life and livelihoods, we must not forget the damage to mental health that these events cause.

But climate change also fans the flames of infectious disease such as malaria, dengue and cholera.

And it fuels the spread of noncommunicable disease by polluting the air, food and water that sustain life.

Small Island Developing States feel these effects most acutely.

My brother Prime Minister Bainimarama knows this all too well. In Fiji, there was an outbreak of diarrheal disease following a drought in 2011.

In 2012, there were outbreaks of leptospirosis, typhoid and dengue following a flood.

And just last year, Cyclone Winston killed 44 people and inflicted damages of $1.4 billion – more than a third of Fiji’s economy.

Climate change is not a political argument in Fiji and other island nations. It is an everyday reality.

These communities need assistance to cope with a world that is changing in front of them.

But despite years of talk, the international response remains weak.

Less than 1.5% of international finance for climate change adaptation is allocated to health projects, and SIDS receive only a fraction of that.

It’s time for change.

That’s why today I am delighted to launch with the Presidency and UNFCCC, this Special Initiative on Climate Change and Health in Small Island Developing States.

The initiative aims to give Small Island Developing States the resources and support to understand and manage the effects of climate change on health.

Our vision is that by 2030, all small island developing states will have health systems that are resilient to climate change.

But it is not enough simply to ask these communities to adapt.

We must also take action to mitigate the causes of climate change.

So by 2030, we also see a world in which countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions.

This will protect the most vulnerable from climate risks, and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries.

The initiative has four main goals:

First, to amplify the voices of health and political leaders in small island developing states to engage nationally and internationally.

Second, to gather the evidence to build the business case for investment in climate change and health;

Third, to prepare for climate risks through preparedness and prevention policies and to build “climate proof” health systems;

And fourth, to triple the current financial support for climate and health in small island developing states.

We will also aim to lead the way in transforming health services in Small Island Developing States away from expensive models of care that focus on treating the sick, to those that prevent disease and promote health.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are doing this for the small island developing states because they will disproportionately bear the burden of climate change.

Leaving no-one behind means that we are all accountable for those whose voices are not heard the loudest, and whose interests are the most easily ignored.

But this is not just for the small island states. The whole world is affected by climate change. We are all in the same boat. This initiative is for all of us.

We cannot improve health and well-being without addressing climate change and without solidarity.

Thank you. Vinaka.

Press link for more: WHO

Are we ready for 20 million #refugees? 

Is the world prepared for climate refugees?
Senior US military experts say the effects of climate change could cause a migration wave of 20 million climate refugees over the next 20 years. 

But climate risk insurance schemes could prevent it.

 

Days before the climate change summit in Bonn, a new report warns that failure to stop climate change will force tens of millions of people from their homes.

The report from the Environmental Justice Foundation, based on interviews with senior US military and security experts, concludes that climate change will create far more refugees than have fled the Syrian civil war.

The EJF is calling on the delegates in Bonn to create a global climate risk insurance framework to protect climate refugees.

“In our rapidly changing world, climate change — and its potential to trigger both violent conflict and mass migration — needs to be considered as urgent priority,” says Steve Trent, executive director of EJF.


Threat multiplier

The report highlights the situation in the Middle East and Africa, including the worst drought to hit Syria in 900 years. It caused farmers to lose their livestock and livelihoods, which were desperately needed in the context of the war. The report notes that 1 million Syrians were already on the move because of the drought before a single gunshot was fired in the conflict.

The report says such events will spread to other parts of the world. And the hurricanes that have affected the United States this year show richer nations are not immune to the effects of climate change.

The report features interviews with military leaders who say global refugee numbers are set to rise as political, social and economic tensions collide with worsening climate change impacts.

“What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term,” US Military Corps Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney told EJF. “In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.”

“If Europe thinks they have a problem with migration today, wait 20 years and see what happens when climate change drives people out of Africa — the Sahel especially.”

A separate report released this week by Oxfam details some of the displacement that has already happened because of extreme weather events. It found that between 2008 and 2016 an average of 21.8 million people per year were newly internally displaced by sudden-onset extreme weather disasters.

Such instances include the destruction wrought by Cyclone Pape in Vanuatu in 2015, and Cyclone Winston, which displaced more than 55,000 people in Fiji in 2016. Fiji, which is hosting this year’s climate summit in Bonn, lost around a fifth of its GDP as a result of the storm.


Worsening hurricanes in the Atlantic could drive increased climate migration

Climate risk insurance

Insurance against climate change-related weather events already exists. In 2015 at a summit in Elmau, Germany, the G7 group of wealthy countries set up an initiative on climate risk insurance for vulnerable areas of the world, covering around 400 million people. The objective is to stimulate the creation of effective climate risk insurance markets that could function on their own.

InsuResilience, an initiative of the German development agency GIZ, based in Bonn, is carrying out the G7’s plan. It is running programs to establish climate risk insurance markets across the world.

The insurance would help people rebuild after climate-change realted weather events that result in loss of life, livelihood and assets. The goal is to make sure those people stay put and do not become climate refugees. Rapid emergency assistance and reconstruction is provided by the schemes.


Germany wants to push for global climate risk insurance programs at the Bonn summit

Opportunities in Bonn

The German government has been a leader in pushing for these programs. Last year the German Development Ministry invested around €2.8 billion in international climate protection and adaptation.

A spokesperson for the ministry told DW that during the Bonn climate summit, Germany will push for a global partnership for climate risk insurance.

“Increasingly, climate change will also influence flight movements,” said Gerd Müller, Germany’s minister for economic cooperation and development. “Because where grass can no longer grow … or where the rising sea level has flooded coastal areas, people will have to find a new home.”

Although the COP23 summit is not being held in Fiji (the Fijian government is presiding over the meeting, which is being held in Bonn for logistical reasons), the country intends to leave its mark on this year’s summit by stoking the idea of climate risk insurance.

The new testimonials from military experts may convince other delegations that the time has come to establish more such schemes.


SOLOMON ISLANDERS FACE RISING SEA LEVELS

Life on the water

At high tide, Lau Lagoon’s manmade islands barely rise above the waterline. During king tides and
 strong winds, which are becoming increasingly frequent, some islands are now completely submerged.


SOLOMON ISLANDERS FACE RISING SEA LEVELS

The only way is up

As the sea level rises, more and more of the lagoon’s residents are building their homes on stilits for a few extra feet of grace.


SOLOMON ISLANDERS FACE RISING SEA LEVELS

Times of change

John Kaia, 52, is chief of the Aenabaolo tribe on the island of Tauba1. He says that over his lifetime he has seen dramatic changes to the climate – and his people’s way of life.
Press link for more: DW.COM