Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Tornados of Tomorrow

    The news from Oklahoma is heart-wrenching. Houses totally destroyed. Devastation. The dead and wounded, and the glassy-eyed survivors. Global climate change will cause more storms and stronger storms in the future, including tornadoes.

    Meanwhile, most Americans think that global warming and clean energy should be priorities for Congress and the President, according to a recent poll by Yale and George Mason University. Most Americans support reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, support taxing carbon, support giving tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels, and funding renewable-energy research. So the problem is not with popular opinion.

    The problem is with an important policy current within the ruling class. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe has been lubricated by more money from oil companies than any other Senator, raking in $662,000 between 2000 and 2008. Not coincidentally, Inhofe has been a vehement opponent of climate science, claiming it's all a liberal hoax. In Washington, the facts are always negotiable.

    Both of Oklahoma's Senators (Tom Coburn and James Inhofe) are against any disaster aid, unless the Federal budget is cut by an equal amount somewhere else. If there are any grassroots citizen action organization in Oklahoma, they should publicize this among their fellow Oklahomans. "Your Senator is against Federal disaster relief to you!"


John Mashey said...

A definition of small government:
when *your* state is in trouble from disaster, Federal help would be wasteful, but when it's my state, it's different.

May we should do this differently.
1) States can either opt in or out of Federal or regional disaster aid, and if opt in, pay for it, i.e., to spread the risk. This might be akin to local fire departments cooperating, or towns getting service from someone else.

2) Any state ought to have a standard 501(c)(3) through which people can donate when there's a disaster.

3) But if you opted out of Federal help, don't ask.

4) Note that states are taking on risk, with an implicit or explicit assumption that the Federal government will bail them out.

a) Florida drove out the insurance companies, spread coastal risk across the state, setup an actuarily unsound backup.

b) NC and VA don't seem to believe in sea level rise. Many states subsidize VA especially.

c) OK and TX elect folks who don't recognize climate change. Rick Perry downsizes training for firefighters, then borrows many from other states.

d) How much will it cost the rest of the country to keep New Orleans in existence?

It pay to start thinking about forthcoming problems before they are here. I.e., if Congressman are going to vote down disaster aid after the fact, maybe it's time to regionalize it or reorganize it so people can pay for the level of insurance they want, and then live with it.
It is of course more efficient to have shared resources large enough to deploy when needed, but some people don't want FEMA or anything like that ... in which case we should figure out how to handle them fairly.

Anonymous said...

Many people can't think with their brains, especially when it's clogged by their ideology. However there more often seems to be a clear comprehension when their wallets and purses are suffering...

Perhaps someone needs to construct a widget where the average Joe or Jane can enter his or her annual salary/wage/taxes, and be told how much of their taxes went/go to pay for the damage caused directly by climate-related events.

Even better would be an accompanying output that shows what future chunk of said wages/salary will go to pay for climate damage that will manifest over the coming decades, and how action now would reduce this amount. For extra spice it would be instructive to see another output indicating how action yesterday would otherwise have reduced this amount.

And to be gold-plated, such a widget might show people's relative risk of experiencing particular climate-related disasters, based on basic demographic data.

If a cost/risk demonstration/comparison is made personal and specific in response to any and/or all selectable climate change impacts, people might start taking notice.

At least, one could hope...

Bernard J.

Anonymous said...

Global climate change will cause more storms and stronger storms in the future, including tornadoes.

How do rabetts rectify this unsubstantiated claim with the observed decrease in strong tornadoes over the last half century?


cRR Kampen said...

Fair, Gianni. Slight decrease or no trend indeed: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/severeweather/tornadoes.html
Scroll down for graph on trends to find http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/tornado/clim/EF3-EF5.png .

Turboblocke said...

Gianni: the past cannot be used as a guide to the future if conditions change.

dbostrom said...

I'm surprised that few people have called out Coburn and Inhofe for their attempted off-loading of their problems onto the backs of others. If cuts are made in response to Oklahoma's requirements, then it stands to reason something else needful is going to go begging.

The question for both should be along the lines of "Fine, offset disaster relief. What federal spending --in Oklahoma-- are you suggesting you cut?"

John said...

My suggestions:
(1) cut the operating budgets of the Oklahoma delegation of the US Senate and US House. [This won't be large enough to pay for the disaster relief]
(2) zero out farm subsidies and agricultural price supports to Oklahoma farmers
(3) zero out the budget of the US occupation of Iraq and of Afghanistan, currently running at $2B/week.