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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres worried about the North Korea crisis – ‘the world’s worst in years’

Worried UN chief says North Korea crisis is worst ‘in years’   11 Sept 17, PARIS: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in an interview published on Sunday (Sep 10), said the showdown over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme was the world’s worst crisis “in years” and had left him deeply worried.

“To date, we have had wars which have been initiated after a well thought-out decision,” Guterres said in an interview published by the French Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

“But we also know that other conflicts have started through an escalation caused by sleepwalking.

“We have to hope that the seriousness of this threat puts us on the path of reason before it is too late,” said Guterres, according to the French language account of the interview.

“It’s the most serious (crisis) that we have had to face in years,” he said, admitting he was “very worried”.

Guterres said the key question was to get North Korea to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile programme and respect UN Security Council resolutions.

“But we must also maintain the unity of the Security Council at all costs, because it is the only tool which can carry out a diplomatic initiative with a chance of success,” he said.

The United States wants the Security Council to vote on Monday to impose tougher sanctions against Pyongyang, despite resistance from China and Russia.

A US-presented draft resolution calls for an oil embargo on North Korea, an assets freeze on Kim, a ban on textiles and an end to payments of North Korean guest workers.

Diplomatic sources said Russia and China opposed the measures as a whole, except for the ban on textiles, during a meeting of experts on Friday.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international | Leave a comment

There are 11 nuclear power plants in the path of Hurricane Irma

What Lies In Irma’s Path, Five Thirty Eight, By Rachael DottleRitchie King and Ella Koeze, what lies in that path? We can’t say for sure, but within the so-called cone of uncertainty for Irma, there are 11 nuclear power plants, hundreds of hospitals and a slew of hazardous waste containment sites that could become sources of environmental contamination.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Climate change: Parts of South Asia devastated by record monsoon floods

1,200 Die as “Devastating” Climate Change-Linked Floods Submerge Parts of South Asia      8 September 2017  Indian floods: Families devastated after unprecedented monsoon season    ITV News 8 September2017    Some of the victims of India’s worst ever flooding have shown the extent of the devastation as authorities face accusations they have abandoned families caught up in the disaster.
1,200 Die as “Devastating” Climate Change-Linked Floods Submerge Parts of South Asia

India is one of several South Indian countries to suffer huge floods in the this year’s unprecedented monsoon season.

More than 1,400 are thought to have died across four countries. Many more saw their homes washed away, families split up, and crops on which they depended to survive ruined.

The crisis has had relatively little worldwide coverage, with news organisations more focused on hurricanes on the other side of the world.

But both are linked to changing weather patterns due to climate change that are expected to drive more extreme weather in the years to come.

In India, the poverty-stricken northern state of Bihar was among the worst affected……

 weeks after the flood first struck, there has been virtually no Government aid to help victims.

Instead, local charities have been left to deliver emergency supplies.

There were also questions over why there had no been warnings to evacuate or prepare ahead of the floods.

Ashish Ranjan, a volunteer flood relief coordinator, said deaths could have been prevented.

Imagine the misery people went through. If we had an early warning system, a lot of lives could have been saved.

People could have moved to safer places and they could save their belongings.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | ASIA, climate change | Leave a comment

USA to increase the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea

MINISTRY: MORE THAAD LAUNCHERS TO BE DEPLOYED THURSDAY,,  Floyd Cook 10 Sept 17, South Korea says the US military will begin adding more launchers to a contentious high-tech USA missile defense system in South Korea on Thursday to better cope with North Korean threats.

The deployment of THAAD is of great concern to China. On Tuesday, Seoul Administrative Court has dismissed the claim of Seongju residents to suspend the government’s decision to allocate land for the THAAD missile system. Seoul’s Defense Ministry has said the USA military will begin installing the additional launchers Thursday.

Local residents worry about rumored health hazards related to the system’s high-powered radars and the possibility of being targeted in North Korean attacks.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the five-year-old South Korea-U.S. (KORUS) FTA as a frightful deal for creating a $27 billion U.S. trade deficit with South Korea last year. In August, about 900 people from the county shaved their heads to protest the government’s decision……..

Moscow has repeatedly opposed the THAAD deployment, as it could further deteriorate the nuclear crisis and provoke North Korean aggression.

Beijing has objected to the advanced anti-missile battery high-resolution radar system that can potentially monitor China’s military activities as a threat to its security, and had reportedly imposed informal restrictions on selected South Korean imports and tourism as retaliation.

A THAAD battery normally consists of six launchers that can fire up to 48 interceptor missiles, but only two launchers been operational at the site, on a former golf course.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | South Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Global Doctors Congress recognises nuclear war as the greatest public health threat

These doctors and health professionals who deal with public health threats that arise from disease, poverty, climate change and war on a daily basis, recognize that the greatest public health threat we face is the threat of nuclear war. No other public health threat even comes close. They also acknowledge that there is no adequate medical response to nuclear war and prevention is the only response. And the only way to prevent nuclear war is to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

While President’s Trump and Kim Jong un taunt and threaten each other and the U.S. ignites the new nuclear arms race with our proposed trillion dollar buildup over the next three decades, each of the other nuclear nations follow suit not to be outdone, and the world moves closer to nuclear war.  The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday Clock has moved to 2 ½ minutes till midnight or nuclear Armageddon.  This is the future we face, though it is a future that does not have to be.  The non-nuclear nations have spoken and taken action, having grown weary and fearful of the nuclear nations.

For 47 years the nuclear powers have failed to abide by their obligation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Tired of being bullied and threatened any longer they have come together with Indigenous peoples, victims of atomic war and nuclear weapons production and testing particularly harmful to women and children. The coalition also included civil society, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, NGOs and the entire international health community armed with the health and humanitarian consequences of nuclear war report of IPPNW.

Led by the decade-long efforts of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a global campaign coalition of more than 400 organizations in 100 countries, the Ban Treaty case was developed. The resulting “Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Treaty” (PNWT) was adopted July 7, 2017. The Treaty explicitly condemns and declares illegal nuclear weapons because of their medical, environmental, and humanitarian consequences, placing those who continue to possess and rely upon them on the wrong side of a powerful new international norm.

The Treaty will be open for signature when the U.N. reconvenes on September 20. Once ratified or signed by 50 nations, it will go into force 90 days later. Thereafter, those nations who maintain their nuclear arsenals will be stigmatized, de-legitimized, and will be on the wrong side of history……

September 11, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Cold War-era nuclear waste in the path of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma may plow into a site full of Cold War-era nuclear waste, Business Insider, DAVE MOSHER, 

September 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

One woman’s story of the horrific Hiroshima nuclear bombing

A Hiroshima survivor’s apocalyptic tale underscores Japanese abhorrence for the Bomb, Straits Times, Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor, 9 Sept 17  “……Mrs Yoshiko Kajimoto, now a sprightly 86, experienced the blast first-hand. She knows something of wars: She had just entered secondary school when the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out and in the sixth grade when the Pacific War, as Japanese call World War II, broke out. And she was in the 9th grade when the bomb arrived.

Middle school kids were mobilised for the war effort. For this reason, she was in a factory making propeller parts, 2.5km from the blast centre when the moment came.

“It was a clear day without the trace of a cloud,” she said, hands and voice steady as she recounted the trauma. “It had been warm since early morning and there were no warnings of an air raid.”

Then, a flash of light.

“The faces of my parents and my grandfather passed before my eyes and I thought I was dead. It was as though Earth had exploded.”

As she had been trained to do, Mrs Kajimoto pressed her fingers to her eyes to prevent them from falling out of their sockets, as the shock wave arrived moments later, meanwhile trying to scramble to safety under the machines.

“My body was lifted up and I passed out of consciousness. When I came to, my friend, stuck under a machine was whimpering: ‘Help me, Mother. Help me, Teacher!’ My shoulders and legs were trapped. I shook my head and the ash fell from my mouth. The flesh had been ripped off my bones. The factory roof had collapsed. I knew I was alive only because of the pain. People had gone insane. In the distance, I heard someone wail: ‘Hiroshima is gone’.”

Mrs Kajimoto tore off her blouse to put a tourniquet on her bleeding friend, and used her school headband to fasten it further. Around her was a scene so ghoulish that it was worse than the worst nightmares.

People had their nails ripped out, faces had puffed up like balloons, lips had turned inside out. A fellow student approached her, one hand holding a nearly torn-off arm. Suddenly, she knelt before her, and slumped to the ground, dead.

Fires raged everywhere. A mother holding a dead baby was spinning around, insanely.

Then, incredibly, the 14-year-old felt fear leave her as she stepped over bodies and on shiny skin as she helped carry friends to nearby Oshiba Park.

Then, the cremations started and a foul smell spread through the city. There were maggots everywhere, including on her own body.

On the third day, she heard her own neighbourhood was safe, and she staggered towards her home, meeting her father along the way. He had gone to the factory and turned over each body as he looked for her. Seeing her, he broke down and extracted a ball of rice he had been carrying in his pocket as a good luck charm.

For the next few weeks, she was bed-ridden, her grandmother removing maggots from her body with chopsticks.

Two months later, a doctor arrived to remove glass shards from her body. A year and a half later, the father died vomiting blood.

“He had probably been affected by the radiation from walking three days in the city,” she said. “Those days there was no concept of radiation, because it is colourless and odourless.”

Mrs Kajimoto herself suffered gastric cancer in later years and had two-thirds of her stomach removed.

Then peace arrived, and so did poverty. She had to provide for three brothers and food was frequently short.

“For the dead it was hell. For the survivors it was hell too.”

Mrs Kajimoto’s husband died 17 years ago, and she has two daughters, eight grandkids and two great grandchildren. Her fortunes have improved but for five decades, she said, she didn’t want to talk about her experience, until a grandson convinced her she must tell her story. That’s how I got to hear of it.

“I do not ask for disarmament, but I demand abolition of nuclear weapons,” she told me. “Nuclear weapons are an absolute evil and cannot exist with human beings. I do not want Hiroshima, or Nagasaki, to be repeated anywhere.”

“Am I concerned over the North Korean situation? Of course, I am. And I believe, that is the sentiment with the young as well. I say that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should visit North Korea (for talks) even at the risk of his life.”

Is this point of view limited to the few thousands still around who saw the curse of Hiroshima? Not hardly. After a week in Japan, I’d say that there are millions who share the same view.

Japan has all the technology in place to build a nuclear arsenal. From the moment a decision is taken to having ready bombs will probably take a few weeks, no more. But it will be a brave Japanese prime minister who orders those final turns of the screws for Japan’s first atomic bomb.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | history, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war, Women | Leave a comment

USA bombers and Japanese fighter jets drill over East China sea

Japan fighter jets conducted drills with US bombers over East China Sea

Japan fighters conduct an air exercise with US B1-B bombers above the East China Sea as South Korea braces for a possible further missile test by North Korea on its founding anniversary

Minami Funakoshi Tokyo: Japanese F-15 fighter jets on Saturday conducted an air exercise with US B1-B bombers in the skies above the East China Sea, Japan’s air self defence force (ASDF) said.

The joint drill comes as South Korea braces for a possible further missile test by North Korea on its founding anniversary, just days after its sixth and largest nuclear test rattled global financial markets and further escalated tensions in the region.

The exercise involved two US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flying from Andersen air force base on the US Pacific island territory of Guam, which were joined by two Japanese F-15 jet fighters.

On 31 August, Japanese F-15 fighter jets also conducted an air exercise with US B1-B bombers and F-35 stealth fighters in skies south of the Korean peninsula, two days after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan. Reuters

September 11, 2017 Posted by | China, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Conference No War 2017: War and the Environment September 22-24 in Washington, D.C

No War 2017: War and the Environment, September 22-24 Conference in Washington, D.C. Just following the International Day of Peace, and in the tradition of No War 2016: Real Security Without Terrorism, and the best speech any U.S. president ever gave, this year’s conference will focus on activism, including activist planning workshops, addressing how the antiwar and environmental movements can work together.

We encourage and can help you to hold similar events in other locations, and this event will be livestreamed so that other events can watch it.

WHO: Speakers will include: Medea Benjamin, Nadine Bloch, Max Blumenthal, Natalia Cardona, Suzanne Cole, Alice Day, Lincoln Day, Tim DeChristopher, Dale Dewar, Pat Elder, Bruce Gagnon, Philip GiraldiWill Griffin, Seymour Hersh, Tony Jenkins, Larry Johnson, Kathy Kelly, Jonathan King, Lindsay Koshgarian, Peter Kuznick, James Marc Leas, Annie Machon, Ray McGovern,  Rev Lukata Mjumbe, Elizabeth Murray, Anthony Rogers-Wright, Alice Slater, Gar Smith, Susi Snyder, Mike Stagg, Jill Stein, David Swanson, Robin Taubenfeld, Eric Teller, Brian Terrell, Brian Trautman, Richard Tucker, Donnal Walter, Larry Wilkerson, Diane Wilson, Emily Wurth, Kevin Zeese. Read speakers’ bios.

And special guest: Chelsea Manning.

Music by The Irthlingz Duo: Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz, and by Emma’s Revolution, and by Bryan Cahall.

WHEREAmerican University Katzen Art Center
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
All events in the Recital Hall. Workshops on Sunday in the Recital Hall, and in Rooms 112, 115, 123, and 128.
How to get there.

Lodging and rides board.

Friday, Sept 22: 7-10 p.m.
Saturday, Sept 23: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday, Sept 24: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Click here to register (includes 2 catered vegan meals and a copy of the new 2017 edition of A Global Security System: An Alternative to War). The venue seats 211, and we will close registrations when we need to.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

US calls on UN for tougher sanctions against North Korea

US formally requests vote on North Korea at UN Security Council on Sept 11, 10 Sept 17

The US wants tough sanctions to maximise pressure on North Korea to come to the table and negotiate an end to its nuclear and missile tests. he US has formally requested a UN Security Council vote on Monday to impose tough new sanctions against North Korea despite resistance from China and Russia.

Washington has presented a draft UN resolution calling for an oil embargo on North Korea, an assets freeze on Kim Jong-Un, a ban on textiles and an end to payments of North Korean guest workers.

Diplomatic sources said Russia and China opposed the measures as a whole, except for the ban of textiles, during a meeting of experts on Friday.

“This evening, the United States informed the UN Security Council that it intends to call a meeting to vote on a draft resolution to establish additional sanctions on North Korea on Monday, September 11,” a statement from the US mission to the UN read.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said it was too early to talk about a vote at the Security Council on new North Korea sanctions, insisting any pressure should be balanced against restarting talks.

 “Along with pressure on the North Korean regime to induce it to abandon provocations in the implementation of its nuclear and missile programs, it is necessary to emphasize and increase the priority of efforts to resume the political process,” Lavrov said.

The US wants tough sanctions to be imposed to maximise pressure on Pyongyang to come to the table and negotiate an end to its nuclear and missile tests.

The proposed raft of sanctions would be the toughest-ever imposed on North Korea and seek to punish Pyongyang for its sixth and largest nuclear test.

Britain has given early backing to the measure.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Residents protest as South Korea deploys missile defense system THAAD

Dwayne Harmon10 September 2017, Newburgh Gazette     President Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, pressed his case on the diplomatic front, holding separate meetings in Russia with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin. South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said on Friday the country is exploring all ways to prevent the North from developing the technology to mount nuclear warheads on missiles, Efe news reported. “Military action would certainly be an option”. U.S. President Donald Trump has said that all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with the rogue state, and although he would prefer not to use military action, it would be a “sad day” for North Korea if he did. A US-presented draft resolution calls for an oil embargo on North Korea, an assets freeze on Kim, a ban on textiles and an end to payments of North Korean guest workers. A tactical nuclear weapon, which is created to be used against battlefield targets, generally travels across short ranges and carries a low-yield warhead. Putin said North Koreans would “eat grass” rather than give into outside pressure to disarm, and has called for talks to resolve the crisis. Moon’s government has been forced to harden its stance against the North after the communist state conducted several missile tests and a nuclear blast in recent weeks. However, sanctions have so far done little to stop North Korea boosting its nuclear and missile capacity as it faces off with Trump. …….

September 11, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

CNN the only Sunday morning political show to mention climate change when discussing Irma

Sunday shows largely fail to mention climate change in Hurricane Irma coverage

CNN’s State of the Union was the only Sunday morning political show to mention climate change when discussing Irma

DINA RADTKEThree out of four* major Sunday morning political programs neglected to discuss climate change during their coverage of Hurricane Irma, the second category four hurricane to hit the United States in a matter of weeks.

As Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean and approached Florida, Sunday morning political news programs reported on the storm’s remarkable strength and size and the potential damage it could cause, but three major Sunday shows — Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, CBS’ Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week — failed to mention the effects of climate change during their coverage of the storm, even though expertshave linked extreme weather events, including Irma, to global warming.

The only Sunday morning political show to discuss climate change was CNN’s State of the Union. During an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), host Jake Tapper said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, the fact that many experts say that the storm is more intense because of climate change” and asked why many Republicans “act as if it’s not real, even though the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it’s real, and it’s man-made”:

Television news programs have repeatedly avoided discussing climate change in their coverage of devastating natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey. The reluctance to discuss climate change on this week’s Sunday news shows follows a pattern that seems to be getting even worse.


Media Matters searched SnapStream for discussions of climate change and global warming using the search terms “climate change” or “global warming” on Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, CBS’ Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week, and CNN’s State of the Union. Segments were counted if climate change or global warming was discussed in reporting on Hurricane Irma.

*NBC’s Meet the Press was not included because the show was preempted for Hurricane Irma coverage.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, media, USA | 1 Comment

Trump administration’s budget will cripple program for forecasting hurricanes!

Hurricane forecasting is a casualty in the war on climate science, By DIANE CARMAN | The Denver Post
On May 25, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration checked their satellite data, crunched the numbers on ocean temperatures, water currents and weather patterns, and made a prediction. They said this would be an above-normal hurricane season, with 11 to 17 named storms and two to four major hurricanes churning through the Atlantic.

Then they really got to work. The first of the named storms, Arlene, had already jumped the gun in April, forming in the Atlantic weeks before the official opening of the hurricane season. The folks at NOAA knew if they applied the latest in science and technology, they could save lives.

The scientists at the NOAA offices in Boulder, at Princeton and around the country had a new tool — the Finite-Volume on a Cubed-Sphere (FV3) — which produces better models and helps them forecast hurricanes more accurately so that residents can be warned as early as possible on whether to shelter in place, evacuate or seek safe harbor.

So five days before Harvey hit, NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory used the fabulous FV3 to predict that the storm would develop a second eyewall and produce extreme rainfall across the region. Both predictions as well as those about the path of the storm were spot on.

Residents and public officials relied on the forecasts, and as a result the death toll was remarkably low for a storm of such magnitude in the fourth-largest city in the U.S. Early reports are that 60 people died in Harvey, compared to 1,833 in Hurricane Katrina and 117 in Superstorm Sandy………

the high-powered computing and data-gathering technology also is essential for understanding climate change.

Which is why the Trump administration’s budget calls for crippling the program.

Under Trump’s plan, NOAA’s budget is to be slashed by one-fifth, including eliminating programs to improve the agency’s ability to predict tornadoes and to create a tsunami-warning program for the West Coast. The budget for weather satellites — vitally important in hurricane forecasting — is to be cut by 17 percent.

While the Trump administration is laser-focused on jobs for coal miners, it’s busy planning for widespread layoffs of climate scientists who are accused of doing “crazy stuff” — like accurately predicting hurricanes…….

September 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Florida governor’s climate change denial has made state even more vulnerable to hurricanes

Irma: Florida governor’s climate change denial has made state even more vulnerable, warn experts
‘This is what happens when you build a major metropolitan area at sea level with a state government that is in denial…and supports polluters’, Independent, 
Mythili Sampathkumar New York  @MythiliSk As Hurricane Irma ominously makes its way to Florida, experts have warned that the governor’s denial of climate change makes the state’s infrastructure more vulnerable to damage.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has warned all residents to evacuate because Irma “is wider than our entire state and is expected to cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast”. The state is approximately 360 miles (580 km) wide.

“We can rebuild your home, we can’t rebuild your life,” he said.
In Florida, residents install storm shutters and wooden planks in an attempt to minimise inevitable damage to homes and storefronts, but the state may not have done enough to ensure public structures are equally prepared.

Mr Scott, along with Republican Senator Marco Rubio, have dodged questions on climate change over the years.

As recently as June 2017 after Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the global Paris Agreement on climate change, Mr Scott would not say whether he believed human action had an impact on climate despite scientific evidence.
Instead he focused on the President’s commitment to American jobs, saying: “You cannot invest in your environment without a good economy.”However, this attitude could result in preventable damage along the Florida coast and particularly for poorer communities in the state.

Julie McNamara, an energy analyst at the Union for Concerned Scientists, told The Independent that research done by the group indicated that electricity transformers in Miami-Dade county were at particular risk of flooding.

She said that these structures are “not required to build for the future” and so sea level rise and increasing intensity of storms are not taken into account.

State government regulations do not reflect that reality in Florida either. Ms McNamara pointed out that Florida Power and Light, a large public utility company serving almost 10 million people, has “doubled down” on nuclear power and has limited the state’s residents ability to have more resilient, renewable sources of power than nuclear plants that could also flood……

Nicole Hernandez Hammer, Climate Science and Community Advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Independent that what Miami Beach has done is great, but those same funds are not available in lower income areas.“People [in these neighbourhoods and cities] deal with flooding frequently because of sea level rise on normal days,” so it is frightening to think what may happen with Hurricane Irma, she said……..

“This is what happens when you build a major metropolitan area at sea level with a state government that is in denial…and supports polluters,” Ms Hammer said.She has first-hand experience with Mr Scott’s aversion to even discussing climate change.

When she was assistant director of climate change research at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, Ms Hammer worked on a report regarding the state transportation infrastructure’s resilience to rising sea levels.

When her team submitted the report to the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency called to tell the team to scrub almost all mentions of the phrase “climate change,” even in the summary of the report.

“We can’t even mention the phrase but now we’re all panicking,” Ms Hammer noted…….



September 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

We know that human-induced climate change is real – its role in Irma and Harvey

Irma and Harvey should kill any doubt that climate change is real, We can’t afford to keep pretending. September 7 As we begin to clean up from Hurricane Harvey, the wettest hurricane on record, dumping up to 50 inches of rain on Houston in three days, and await landfall of Irma, the most powerful hurricane on record in the open Atlantic Ocean, people are asking: What is the role of human-induced climate change in these events, and how else have our own actions increased our risks?

Fundamental physical principles and observed weather trends mean we already know some of the answers — and we have for a long time.

Hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean waters, and the oceans are warming because of the human-caused buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of coal, oil and gas. The strongest hurricanes have gotten stronger because of global warming. Over the past two years, we have witnessed the most intense hurricanes on record for the globe, both hemispheres, the Pacific and now, with Irma, the Atlantic.

We also know that warmer air holds more moisture, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has increased because of human-induced global warming. We’ve measured this increase, and it has been unequivocally attributed to human-caused warming. That extra moisture causes heavier rainfall, which has also been observed and attributed to our influence on climate. We know that rainfall rates in hurricanes are expected to increase in a warmer world, and now we’re living that reality.

And global warming also means higher sea levels, both because ocean water expands as it warms and because ice in the mountains and at the poles melts and makes its way into oceans. Sea level rise is accelerating, and storm surge from hurricanes rides on top of higher seas to infiltrate further into our coastal cities.

Heavier rain and higher sea levels can combine to compound flooding in major hurricanes, as the deluges cause flooding that must drain to the sea but can’t do so as quickly because of storm surges. Sadly, we saw this effect in play in the catastrophic flooding from Harvey.

We don’t have all of the answers yet. There are scientific linkages we’re still trying to work out. Harvey, like Hurricane Irene before it in 2011, resulted in record flooding, because of a combination of factors. Very warm ocean temperatures meant more moisture in the atmosphere to produce heavy rainfall, yes. But both storms were also very slow-moving, nearly stationary at times, which means that rain fell over the same areas for an extended period.

Cutting-edge climate science suggests that such stalled weather patterns could result from a slowed jet stream, itself a consequence — through principles of atmospheric science — of the accelerated warming of the Arctic. This is a reminder of how climate changes in far-off regions such as the North Pole can have very real effects on extreme weather faced here in the Lower 48.

These linkages are preliminary, and scientists are still actively studying them. But they are a reminder that surprises may be in store — and not welcome ones — when it comes to the unfolding effects of climate change.

Which leads us, inevitably, to a discussion of policy — and, indeed, politics. Previous administrations focused on adapting to climate change, with an eye to what the planet would look like in the future. But events such as Harvey, and probably Irma, show that we have not even adapted to our current climate (which has already changed because of our influence).

The effects of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out before us here and now. And they will only worsen if we fail to act.

The Trump administration, however, seems determined to lead us backward. In recent months, we have witnessed a dismantling of the policies put in place by the Obama administration to (a) incentivize the necessary move from climate-change-producing fossil fuels toward clean energy, (b) increase resilience to climate change effects through sensible regulations on coastal development, and (c) continue to fund basic climate research that can inform our assessments of risk and adaptive strategies. Ironically, just 10 days before Harvey struck, President Trump rescinded flood protection standards put in place by the Obama administration that would take sea level rise and other climate change effects into account in coastal development plans.

And as Trump kills policies that would reduce the risks of climate disasters, our nation continues to support policies that actually increase our risks. For example, without the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program, banks would be less likely to provide mortgages for rebuilding houses in locations that have been flooded before, sometimes repeatedly. And the flood insurance program is itself underwater:  badly in debt and set to expire at the end of this month unless Congress finds a way to keep it afloat, just as billions of dollars in claims from Harvey come pouring in.

Harvey and Irma are sad reminders that policy matters. At a time when damage from climate change is escalating, we need sensible policy in Washington to protect the citizens of this country, both by reducing future climate change and preparing for its consequences. We should demand better of our leaders.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Reference, USA | 1 Comment