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How to prepare for the next Hurricane Harvey

Preparing for the next Hurricane Harvey,Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dan Drollette Jr , Sept 17,  Alice C. Hill is in the business of finding better ways to cope with the catastrophic risks posed by climate change—risks so bad, she says, that “most of us avoid talking about them at the dinner table.” A short list includes ocean acidification, out of control wildfires, long-lasting droughts, record-breaking heat waves that kill crops and humans, the spread of tropical diseases to temperate countries such as the United States, and massive, global-warming assisted hurricanes that cause extensive flooding—which she terms “rain bombs.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, her skills have been in great demand.

A former member of the National Security Council and a former Special Assistant to the President, she led the development of a national policy to deal with the effects of climate change on national security—effects that institutions such as the Department of Defense call a “threat multiplier.” Since leaving the White House, Hill has been a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

In this interview, Hill describes the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, its connections to climate change, and how coastal cities could make themselves more resilient to the increased-intensity storms that climate change is likely to produce.

She addresses what coastal cities could do that is relatively cheap and independent of the federal government; and what the federal government could do that climate change-denying politicians could get on board with. Most importantly, Hill describes how to rebuild after the devastating storm in Texas and Louisiana, so that we do not repeat the same mistakes.

The Bulletin’s Dan Drollette caught up with Hill by phone in this interview. (Editor’s note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

“………….Trump called Harvey’s aftermath a “500-year flood.” But that term is not really true any more, because we’ll be seeing more of these epic storms, and they certainly will return more frequently than that phrase would suggest……

 I have not yet read an immediate study that says this particular storm is climate-caused. But certainly it is consistent with what we have said we can expect. They’ve got a one-foot sea level rise, which increased the storm surge. And this storm also had the expected extreme precipitation—a “rain bomb”—because so much rain fell at once. And there’s no place for it to go.

And that is all consistent with what we thought would occur with climate change. The storms come more quickly, because warmer water temperatures cause storms to form quickly and be more intense…….

 in the course of my work at the National Security Council, I did read what the scientists have issued, particularly in the form of the National Climate Assessment. And it says that we’re going to have more intense storms, with greater amounts of precipitation, and higher storm surges. All of this should not be a surprise to us, but it still is…..

These record-breaking events will be our new norm. And, of course, a lot of the resulting flood damage can be laid to development.

BAS: Is development part of the reason for this storm’s effects? Things like the paving-over of rice fields and prairies in Texas to make hundreds of square miles of roads and shopping mall parking lots? They sealed off a lot of land that could have been absorbing water.

HILL: Very much so. Our land-use decisions have affected the ability of water to drain, and if the water can’t drain easily it’s going to sit there and cause increased flooding. So no question, the development choices we’ve made have an impact. Paving over wetlands and reducing our greenscape has increased the risk—as well as the amount—of flooding near urban areas.

………The problem is that we don’t have building codes that reflect this new reality yet. They’re working on them, but those codes aren’t widespread. There’s only a few communities that have planned for catastrophic floods. New York has done more in this area than almost all communities, in trying to figure out how to build more resiliently, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

Most of our current building codes don’t yet reflect the future risk from climate change. We need more flood-proofing, to prepare for the more severe floods that will be a natural result of climate change. And some areas have no building codes. Some have adopted older building codes, and have not updated them. The frequent argument is, it’s too expensive to change things. Even if you have a great building code, you have to have enforcement of it. So, there are many challenges still on the building front………..

Sometimes our default is to build and think we’ll have a permanent fixed barrier to always keep the water out. Instead, we should be thinking, in my opinion, about green infrastructure. Lloyd’s of London, that insurance company that’s been around in one form or other for hundreds of years, recently came out with a report that said that green infrastructure—like mangroves or wetlands—can keep a community safe, and at a cost that’s about 30 times cheaper than building a sea wall.

So, I believe it’s important to look at green infrastructure. And a lot of land-use decisions are not federal decisions, but local ones. So that’s where coastal communities can step up to the plate.

Now the trick is that to do it right, you’ve got to have a bigger, overall plan—water does not pay attention to local boundary lines.

So, towns, states, regions, have to plan together, and decide what they’re going to allow development for and how. If you let a subdivision to be put forward here, then do you have adequate drainage for it over there? If you lay down more concrete in a city, you need to make sure that the water has some place to go so we’re not just increasing the flooding risk. It’s a matter of looking at your evacuation routes and making sure you keep in mind the places for the water to go, as well as places for people to get out easily. And if it’s at sea-level, the communities involved may want to decide if it make sense to be investing in retro-fitting or improving a waste water treatment plant that’s going to be inundated in the future by sea rise.

But that means these towns or states have to plan together. Which does increase complexity.

So, a lot of this does not have to be from the federal government, but it is a matter of coordinating effort and putting good practices in place region-wide……..

we need to have resilience at the forefront of any planning and any spending. Because we’re really at risk for having thrown away that money if we don’t include planning for a hotter, wetter, more flood-prone future……http://thebulletin.org/preparing-next-hurricane-harvey11059

September 2, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Texas’ Secretary of State would rather have ‘their prayers’ than material help from Canada

Texas’ secretary of state turned down Quebec’s aid offer, asked for “prayers” instead   http://www.salon.com/2017/09/01/texas-secretary-of-state-turned-down-quebecs-aid-offer-asked-for-prayers-instead/  Hurricane Harvey is illustrating America’s tense international relationships, MATTHEW ROZSA, May God help Texas, because Canada sure won’t.

The Canadian province’s  Minister of International Relations, Christine St-Pierre, offered to send equipment, power crews, sleeping materials and hygenic products to Texas. But Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos turned down her offer and simply asked for “prayers from the people of Quebec.”

Hurricane Harvey has also had the incidental effect of shedding light on the newly complicated and tense relationships that America has with the rest of the world under President Donald Trump.

Mexico and Venezuela have both offered to help the United States despite facing hostility from the Trump administration, according to Politico. Mexico was insulted by Trump during the 2016 campaign when he said they sent rapists and drug dealers to the United States, and after taking office Trump later had an infamously tense conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Venezuela on the other hand has been the subject of harsh sanctions by the Trump administration.

They aren’t alone among nations alienated by Trump who are coming to America in its time of need. For instance, the European Union has shared its satellite mapping with emergency responders, even though Trump has created tension in America’s relationship with Europe due to his harsh criticisms of NATO.

All of this is well and good, but as Hoover Institution visiting fellow Markos Kounalakis told Politico, “Foreign governments are holding back, and that hasn’t been the case historically. They appear to be much more cautious, whether it’s for domestic political reasons or displeasure with President Trump. Do they want to be seen as helping Trump?”

Texas and Quebec have a close relationship thanks to both trade and the aerospace industry, and despite Pablos’ response, St-Pierre still said of Texas, “They are our friends, this is what friendship means.” As America is learning, however, those bonds of friendship may not be as strong as they used to be.   Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and his work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

September 2, 2017 Posted by | Canada, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

CEO of South Carolina’s state-owned utility Santee Cooper to get $millions, despite nuclear failure

Retiring utility CEO to receive $1 million in 1st year, Seattle Times, SEANNA ADCOX, The Associated Press, COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The retiring chief executive of South Carolina’s state-owned utility will be paid more than $1 million in the first year of his retirement, which follows the abandonment of a nuclear power project.

Documents provided Friday by Santee Cooper show CEO Lonnie Carter will also leave with nearly $859,000 in a 401K-style plan to invest or draw down from as he wishes.

The 58-year-old will receive roughly $800,000 annually for the next two decades, then $345,000 yearly for the rest of his life. His contract provides an additional $270,500 — half of his current salary — over the first year of his retirement.

 Carter announced his resignation last week after 35 years with the public utility, the last 13 as CEO. But he remains at the helm until the board names an interim replacement, expected within the next several weeks. His impending departure marks the first executive to leave following the July 31 decision to halt construction on two partly built reactors that customers have been funding since 2009.

The retirement package involves his state pension, his 2011 contract and Santee Cooper’s two benefit plans for executives. One is the 401K-style account. The other provides up to $455,200 annually for 20 years, depending on this year’s bonus. It’s unclear whether he’ll receive the total compensation his contract allows.

Carter’s salary is $541,000. Last year, he received a $330,500 bonus for meeting corporate goals such as power costs, safety and customer satisfaction, according to the utility.

Carter had been eligible for retirement since 2011, but the utility’s board had asked him to remain until the nuclear project’s completion. Carter was not asked to leave, and no other executive departures are expected, board Chairman Leighton Lord said last week.

 Santee Cooper was a 45 percent partner with South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. in the effort to expand the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County north of Columbia, where they have shared ownership of an existing reactor for more than 30 years.\
 The two decided to abandon construction after jointly spending nearly $10 billion, leaving nearly 6,000 people jobless. The utilities’ customers have already paid more than $2 billion on the failed project through a series of rate hikes since 2009, which covered interest costs on financing.

The companies don’t expect to refund anything. Customers could end up paying off that debt over decades…….

Since 2011, Santee Cooper executives were paid more than $70,000 in bonuses for the now-abandoned project. More than half of that went to Carter, The State newspaper reported in Friday’s papers.

 “The performance goals tied to the nuclear project were specific and measurable, and all payouts were based on those goals being met,” said Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore.

SCE&G paid nearly $21 million in bonuses to top executives, some of which was for reaching milestones in the nuclear project. The privately owned SCE&G did not say how much of the bonus money was specifically for the nuclear project. http://www.seattletimes.com/business/state-owned-utility-also-paid-bonuses-for-nuclear-project/

September 2, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

China’s Parliament passes a new nuclear safety law

China’s legislature passes nuclear safety law, Reuters Staff by David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue SHANGHAI (Reuters), 1 Sept 17,  – China’s parliament passed a new nuclear safety law on Friday aimed at improving regulation in the nuclear power sector as new projects are built across the country.

Officials say the law will give more powers to the regulator, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), and establish new systems that will improve the disclosure of information on issues like radiation, and prevent or minimise risks from nuclear accidents.

………weak and opaque governance has long been seen as an industry problem, especially when it comes to determining the precise roles of the government, the military and state-owned nuclear enterprises on issues such as the handling of nuclear materials and the disposal of spent fuel.

Guo said the new law focused on strengthening China’s nuclear safety regime, and would create “institutional mechanisms” and a “division of labour” among regulators and enterprises to clarify responsibilities for safety…..

the decision to construct dozens of new projects, many using advanced and untested “third-generation” reactor designs, has put the government under pressure to improve regulation and build public trust in nuclear power.

China also needs to expand its waste processing capacity and train hundreds of new technicians and safety staff.

Mark Hibbs, senior fellow of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said China has until now not addressed the legal authority of the NNSA, a relatively under-resourced division of China’s environment ministry……https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-nuclearpower/chinas-legislature-passes-nuclear-safety-law-idUSKCN1BC4ER

September 2, 2017 Posted by | China, safety | Leave a comment

Prison for US man who illegally shared nuclear tech

Jail term for US man who illegally shared nuclear tech, An American man has been sentenced to two years in jail for illegally helping China develop its nuclear power programme. BBC 2 Sept 17

Szuhsiung Ho, aka Allen Ho, helped Chinese efforts to develop nuclear power for almost 20 years, said the US Department of Justice.

Ho was prosecuted because he did not obtain explicit permission to share “sensitive” nuclear technologies.

He was also fined $20,000 (£15,500) for breaking the US tech transfer rules…….Many of the technologies involved in using radioactive material to generate power are on a proscribed list, and anyone seeking to share them must first get permission from the US Department of Energy to do so…..http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41122104

September 2, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Climate change appeal to world leaders – by Pope and Orthodox leader

Pope, Orthodox leader make climate change appeal to ‘heal wounded creation’, Reuters Staff VATICAN CITY (Reuters) 1 Sept 17 – Pope Francis and Orthodox Christian leader Patriarch Bartholomew called on Friday for a collective response from world leaders to climate change, saying the planet was deteriorating and vulnerable people were the first to be affected.

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September 2, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Shift to solar, wind and water power by China’s energy agencies

China’s amazing green shift to solar, wind and water power, REneweconomy,  [good graphs] By John Mathews on 1 September 2017  Global Green Shift

China’s energy-related agencies, the National Energy Administration (NEA) and the China Electricity Council (CEC), have released data on the operation of China’s electric power system in the first half of 2017 (1H 2017), noting that renewable sources (water, wind and sun) accounted for just on 69.8% of new capacity added, with thermal sources (mainly coal) accounting for 28%, and nuclear for just on 2% (Fig. 1).

These results reveal a marked shift towards green sources of electric power, when compared with the 2016 data which show that renewable sources (WWS) added 51.9% of new capacity, while thermal accounted for 42.9% and nuclear for 5.2%.

The first half results for 2017 thus reveal that the electric power system is continuing its green shift, edging closer to placing more reliance on WWS sources at the margin, with WWS sources increasing their influence and thermal sources declining in proportion.

The trends therefore continue those analyzed previously by Dr Hao Tan and myself (http://apjjf.org/2017/10/Mathews.html)……..

When we turn to examine new capacity additions and investments in WWS sources in 2017 (1H) we see that the green shift continues to operate at a level that far exceeds what is found elsewhere in the world.

Solar

The 23.6 GW new solar PV capacity added in 2017 (1H) is another world record for China, taking the cumulative installed capacity to 101 GW by end of June 2017 (and to 112.3 GW by July 2017– which is already above the (conservative) target of 105 GW set for 2020 by the ND&RC in its 13th FYP for energy).

Some observers like the AECEA see China’s solar PV installations as likely to top 40 GW in 2017 for the full year (https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/08/22/aecea-china-installations-to-surpass-40-gw-in-2017).

The AECEA sees the 2020 cumulative total for China as likely to reach 230 GW, which would dominate the global picture.

Now the NEA in China in August has acted to raise the target for solar PV in China by 2020, setting a new target of 213 GW – or a doubling of the previous target total, which is already five times the current installed capacity in the US (https://www.ecowatch.com/china-solar-target-2476947208.html)……

Wind

The 6.0 GW new capacity added for wind in China for 2017 (1H) – or 1 GW per month (equivalent to 400 new turbines built and erected,  rated at 2.5 MW each).

This is a 4.7% increase on the pro rata figure for 2016, which saw wind capacity additions reaching 17.3 GW, and the cumulative total reaching 154.6 GW, easily the largest in the world.

According to Greenpeace, China is on track to install 110 GW onshore wind capacity by 2020 – raising cumulative wind capacity to 259 GW, well in excess of the 210 GW target set for the end of the 13th FYP period in 2020……..http://reneweconomy.com.au/chinas-amazing-green-shift-solar-wind-water-power-57490/

September 2, 2017 Posted by | China, renewable | 1 Comment

Time to stop the secrecy on nuclear reports,by SCE&G, its parent company SCANA, and Santee Cooper

No excuse for secrecy, http://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/editorials/no-excuse-for-secrecy/article_10c74bc4-8e96-11e7-afd6-03e74390c340.html, 1 Sept 17 As lawmakers and state officials investigate the failure to complete construction on two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, the responsible parties — SCE&G, its parent company SCANA, and Santee Cooper — owe the hundreds of thousands of customers who have already helped pay for the project a full and thorough explanation.

That includes supplying every piece of documentation and evidence available as regards the nearly decade-long effort.

Troublingly, neither Santee Cooper nor SCE&G appear to have been forthcoming with a particularly intriguing report produced by Bechtel, an engineering and project management company. The Post and Courier reported on Thursday that SCANA and Santee Cooper officials testified under oath about the Bechtel document — specifically that it exists — which was news to officials at the state Office of Regulatory Staff, who had been told otherwise by SCE&G after repeated requests.

Now, SCANA is claiming that the document cannot be handed over to lawmakers investigating the debacle since it contains privileged information that could be used in a lawsuit against lead contractor Westinghouse.

Santee Cooper, which is a state agency that answers to Gov. Henry McMaster, has similarly refused access, even to Mr. McMaster himself.

For SCANA, refusal to hand over a document that could provide critical information to investigators amounts to an unacceptable hindrance of an effort to save ratepayers from having to pay off as much as $2.2 billion over the next six decades for power plants they will never use.

For Santee Cooper, stonewalling the governor could be fairly described as insubordination. Santee Cooper is a state agency and Mr. McMaster is the chief executive officer of the state.

The Bechtel report was ordered when problems began to arise during the construction process on the reactors. It reportedly contains recommendations for getting the project back on track and avoiding delays and budgetary woes.

If state officials can prove that SCE&G ignored the advice or was insufficiently prudent in implementing it, it could help customers avoid having to pay some or all of the costs associated with the failed project, as part of a critical clause in the disastrously misguided Base Load Review Act.

 In other words, it is a key document, and there is no acceptable excuse for denying access to the state’s regulators, lawmakers and the governor.

Members of the state House and Senate investigative committees have threatened to subpoena if the Bechtel report is not turned over in a timely fashion. They should not hesitate to do so.

In the meantime, SCANA and Santee Cooper must be completely forthcoming with not just one critical document but with every relevant piece of evidence that can help explain just what went wrong leading to one of the state’s costliest-ever economic disasters.

At the least, the utilities owe it to the many South Carolinians who already have been collectively charged $1 billion for a plant that apparently will never go on line.

September 2, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Will the BBC give “equal time” to Australia’s climate denialist zealot, former PM Tony Abbott?

Tony Abbott to lecture leading climate-change sceptic think tank, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/tony-abbott-to-lecture-leading-climatechange-sceptic-think-tank/news-story/ce897ce09992d942256245dd08edf0fd, GRAHAM LLOYD, 1 Sept 17, Former prime minister Tony ­Abbott will give the annual lecture to one of the world’s leading climate change sceptic think tanks, the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London.

The title of Mr Abbott’s ­address will be “Daring to doubt”.

The invitation-only lecture will be held at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Birdcage Walk, London, on October 9. Mr Abbott will follow John Howard who addressed the foundation’s lecture in 2013 with a speech “One religion is enough”.

The foundation is chaired by former Thatcher government treasurer Lord Nigel Lawson.

The foundation is one of the world’s most active groups promoting debate about the state of climate change science.

It republishes articles and mat­erial both supportive and against the mainstream science view and commissions research on climate change-related issues.

The foundation is funded by private donations and does not accept gifts from energy companies or anyone with a significant interest in an energy company.

Mr Abbott’s spokeswoman said the trip would be privately funded by the foundation

September 2, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Nuclear power is a menace to human survival

Nuclear power poses a threat to the planet, http://buffalonews.com/2017/09/01/letter-nuclear-power-poses-a-threat-to-the-planet/ David Gaeddert, September 2, 2017 Nice try on the nuclear energy idea. (“Nuclear plants are safe, essential to state energy,” Aug. 31 Everybody’s Column.) As many times as I have had to head down the road and look for another job, I feel very little need to subsidize hopelessly money-losing enterprises.

All operating nuclear plants release a certain amount of radioactivity as a part of normal operation. Children living within 5 kilometers of operating nuclear plants have more leukemia than children living farther away. This is beyond doubt. Other public health indicators are worse closer to operating nuclear plants. Again, beyond doubt.

Nuclear power produces spent fuel and other radioactive waste that will be dangerous for thousands of years. No one has real solutions. The Yucca Mountain repository sounded like a good idea, but there are geological problems with this project. That is why it is not full up and we are looking for the next idea.

Fermi-1 (“We Almost Lost Detroit”), Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are the big ones we know about. There were reports of people and animals having health problems after the Three Mile Island meltdown. Actual public health science confirmed real problems.

Fukushima Prefecture has problems with wild pigs – they have picked up enough radioactivity from eating contaminated plants that they are not fit for human consumption, and disposing of their carcasses is a problem. One could go on and on.

Nuclear energy and associated leaks, radwaste, meltdowns and whatever else may be more of a menace to human survival on this planet than climate change and ocean acidification.

 

September 2, 2017 Posted by | general | 1 Comment

Donald Trump’s divisive effect on Americans – shown by new poll

Most American Voters Believe President Trump Is ‘Tearing the Country Apart’ http://time.com/4922605/donald-trump-fox-poll/,Mahita Gajanan, Aug 31, 2017 The majority of voters surveyed in a recent Fox News poll said President Trump is dividing the U.S.

According to the poll, 56% of voters think Trump is tearing the country apart, while 33% said he is drawing it together.

 The poll, conducted with registered voters between Aug. 27 and Aug. 29, further found that most people are more dissatisfied with the current events in the U.S. than they were a few months ago. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they are not satisfied with how things are going in the country, while 35% said they are satisfied. In April, 45% said they were satisfied, while 53% said they were not.

Trump’s job approval ratings in the Fox News poll have also dipped since April, with 55% disapproving of his work as president and 41% approving. Only forty-eight percent of voters disapproved in April.

The poll also highlights differences in perspective between Trump voters and those who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. While 80% of Clinton voters believe white supremacists pose a larger threat to the U.S. than the news media, 75% of Trump voters believe the opposite. When asked if they think Trump will finish his term as president, 92% of his supporters said he would, while 29% of Clinton voters said he would not.

Fox News said it conducted the poll with 1,006 randomly chosen voters across the country. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus three percentage points.

September 2, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment