While I wish the best to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, I also hope climate change deniers affected by the hurricanes realize their denial of climate change contributed to their current situation and will contribute to worse situations in the future.
Mother Earth is doing her best to convince climate denying Americans that global warming is no hoax and that people are responsible for the increasing instances and intensity of weather disasters. She started by flooding the Gulf Coast with category-three hurricane, Harvey, which AccuWeather predicts will cost America more than Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina combined.
But Hurricane Harvey was just the beginning of America’s hellish hurricane season of 2017. Floridians are now evacuating their homes as category-five hurricane, Irma, bears down on them after reportedly destroying 90 percent of buildings in Barbuda, leaving half the population homeless. The storm also left two-thirds of Puerto Ricans without power, and south Florida was placed on hurricane watch, as sea levels could rise anywhere from five to 10 feet.
If Hurricane Harvey is expected to cost more than Hurricane Sandy (a category-three storm) and Hurricane Katrina (a category-five storm) combined, then Irma will likely cost more than Harvey, Sandy and Katrina combined. But at least hurricanes Jose and Katia are expected to miss America, with Jose expected to further decimate the Caribbean and Katia headed for Veracruz.
Three hurricanes forming in the same ocean is unusual, but it’s been happening more often lately. It last happened in the Atlantic Ocean in 2010, when Hurricanes Igor, Julia and Karl followed almost the exact path of hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia. And for the first time ever in 2015, two category-three hurricanes formed in the Pacific Ocean simultaneously, with a third category-two hurricane accompanying the storms.
Some God-fearing Americans might think intensifying hurricane seasons and increasing instances of destructive weather events is God’s way of punishing us for legalizing abortion or same-sex marriage. Or maybe God is punishing communities that have allowed themselves to be overrun with illegal immigrants, even though every hurricane inevitably punishes communities with large populations of immigrants because hurricanes, like immigrants, tend to reach their destination by sea.
But Hurricane Harvey hasn’t been discriminatory when it comes to the lives it’s claimed, and neither will Irma. If America’s hurricane season from hell is really a hurricane season from heaven, there’s no evidence that God is attempting another Great Flood. In fact, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the increased instances and intensities of these storms: man-made global warming.
Three-quarters of man-made, greenhouse gas emissions are a result of human energy consumption. Those greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide and methane, are responsible for 82 percent of global warming. When Earth’s atmosphere warms, polar ice melts. When polar ice melts, sea levels rise, but it’s the extreme increase in polar temperatures that have and will continue to create more hurricanes and other destructive weather events.
Arctic temperatures up to 59 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average have not only left the size of the polar ice caps at an all-time low, but has exposed the dark depths of the Arctic sea to the sun, which further increases sea temperatures. That resulting increase in temperature narrows the difference between the Arctic sea temperature and that of southern seas. This weakens the 250-mile-per-hour winds of the jet stream that keep cold, Arctic air circulating the Arctic where it belongs. The slower jet stream winds allow cold, Arctic air to escape south, and warm, southern air to move north, resulting in more extreme weather at lower latitudes. Hence Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Katia.
So the more we as a species emit carbon dioxide and methane from oil and natural gas drilling to then burn in our vehicles and appliances, the more hurricanes and destructive weather events we create. If there’s any good to come of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, I hope those climate deniers affected by the storms now have a reason to change their mind on global warming and change the way they live and vote.
One of the most common answers I get as to why people don’t do their part to limit man-made climate change is that the earth is going to die anyways, and they’re not going to be around to see it. These people are treating Earth like a possession instead of a living being. It’s as if climate deniers see Earth as a motel -- or better yet -- a prostitute. They think the transaction makes the person a possession, and since they pay Earth’s rent, they own Earth and can do whatever they want to her.
If Mother Earth is a prostitute, she’s a diseased, obese hag who’s been used up and abused too often, but that doesn’t stop people from paying for her services. Corporate executives fill her up with vibrating probes to entice her sexual secretions to the surface to be collected and sold. They run trains on her that spill toxic substances on and into her. Every trick she turns results in another ejaculation of carbon dioxide or methane into her atmosphere. As a mother, though, she has to put food on the table and pay the rent, so she has to take it lying down -- or whatever way the John wants to deliver it.
But all that abuse builds up and inevitably has to be released if Earth is to avoid suicide. So Earth unloads on the unsuspecting masses when properly triggered, discriminating against none, for no one is truly innocent. Even the recyclers and Greenpeace volunteers didn’t do enough to prevent her from resorting to prostitution. They should have been more adamant about treating Earth with respect and done more to persuade people that she’s indeed a person -- not just a prostitute. Society as a whole has failed Earth and will pay the price.
So think of Mother Earth as your own mother. Sure, she’s going to die just like Earth, but does that mean you treat her as if she’s already dead? Would you smoke around your mother knowing she struggles to breathe in her old age? Then don’t drive when you can walk, bike or take public transit. If you can afford it, buy an electric vehicle or outfit your house with renewable energy sources before the tax incentives end. You want your mother to be as comfortable as possible when she dies, so make Mother Earth as comfortable as possible when she dies. She too gave birth to you and continues to care for you even when you don’t care for her.
Denying the existence of man-made, global warming will only leave us in a cycle of perpetual rebuilding. We’ve gone and pissed off Mother Earth with our wasteful, selfish ways. It’s well past time we as Americans and as a species make up for it before it’s too late.
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Hurricane Harvey has caused property owners along the Gulf and East Coasts to panic over projections of outrageous property flood insurance rates that, in some cases, could lead to increases of greater than 1000 percent. Is there really a problem finding affordable flood insurance along America’s coasts? Yes, and a growing one.
The current national flood insurance program has been around since 1968. Actually, it was created not so much because of hurricane damage, but due to widespread flooding along the Mississippi River in the early 1960s. More and more levees were built up and down the river, which created major flooding in unprotected areas. Private insurance companies could not handle the damage claims so the federal government stepped in. The program was extended to cover hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast, and if a homeowner didn’t get flood insurance, they were unable to get their home financed.
A year ago, Congress reauthorized the national flood insurance program through 2017. But in the process, a number of changes were made to make the program more financially sound. The new program caused rates to skyrocket along the Gulf Coast.
How do we begin to solve the affordability problem? First of all, we need to recognize how vast this exposure for national disasters has become. I live in hurricane alley, and we all understand that hurricanes are a major part of the puzzle to be solved. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated coastlines of New York and New Jersey, show that this is not just a regional problem. All coastlines are at risk. Over half of all Americans live within 100 miles of the coast.
But hurricane protection is just one part of the problem. Torrential rains in the Midwest have unleashed a wave of damage that is wiping out thousands of homes. Without flood insurance, they are out of luck. And what about wildfires out west? Wildfires are a rampant and growing problem that needs a national insurance response. Then there’s the massive destruction caused by tornados in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, and a host of other states.
Get my point? Natural disasters happen all over America, and have increased way beyond the ability for state programs to be effective and affordable. So has any plan been proposed which is encompassing, and yet affordable for homeowners that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars? Yes. Louisiana’s Insurance Department, during the time I served as Commissioner, took the lead back in 1995 by proposing a comprehensive plan that could assist property owners following disasters all across the country. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties.
In making this proposal, I commented at the time that “if a major hurricane strikes New Orleans, it could put 26 feet of water in the downtown area and cause insurance losses greater than $26 billion.” That’s right on the money as to what happened during Hurricane Katrina ten years later. I concluded by saying: “We are going to have a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America if we don’t get a national disaster program in place.”
I testified a few months later before a Senate panel in Washington on Senate Bill 1350. Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state fund. The state fund would then be backed up by a national fund. The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved. Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk. Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage.
The U.S. Senate adopted my proposal, but the legislation became hung up and died in the U.S. House of Representatives. That was the plan then. And the good news is that a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and now Harvey.
It’s taken almost 20 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving. It’s just not a handout for the coastal states. The whole country will benefit. And at a price that’s affordable. We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.
“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!” -- Donald Gardner
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Genesis Communication Network. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.