Flying monkey attack continues.

Washington Post:

During the August recess, the Trump administration has named two people — Trey Glenn and Cathy Stepp, who each had controversial tenures running the state-level regulatory agencies in Alabama and Wisconsin, respectively — to leadership positions at two of the EPA’s 12 regional administrative offices.

Though they receive less attention than EPA headquarters in Washington, the regional offices are essential to carrying out the agency’s agenda — which, in Pruitt’s case, is to ease the regulatory burden on businesses and work more closely with the states in which those businesses operate.

(Trey)Glenn will lead the Region 4 office, which covers eight states in the Southeast. (Cathy) Stepp will be deputy regional administrator at the Region 7 office, which oversees EPA operations in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas. She will be the acting regional head until the EPA appoints a permanent one.

Glenn’s time in Alabama is marked by an ethics investigation that began in 2007 when he ran the state’s Office of Water Resources prior to leading the environmental department.

Glenn was accused of traveling to Walt Disney World and Hilton Head. S.C., on flights paid for by a public relations firm representing an environmental engineering company that did work for the water resources office.

A grand jury chose not to indict Glenn in 2009, but that year he resigned from his job heading the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) in order to “pursue opportunities in the private sector,” according to AL.com. Since resigning, he has worked as a lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama.

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Video by Robert Reich.
5 areas where Putin/Trump interests intersect.

Numbers 3 and 5 directly relate to climate change.
The attack on democracy and America’s election is a direct response to the emergence of a renewable revolution, and a carbon bubble that, together, threaten the power of the oligarchy that rules Russia, and the dominance of the fossil fuel industry globally.

harvey

Make Mexico pay.

Axios:

A preliminary insurance analysis released Tuesday by RMS (which advises hundreds of insurers and financial institutions on their financial exposure from natural and human-made disasters and catastrophes) puts the economic loss from Harvey as high as $90 billion.

Why it matters: Because up to 80 percent of the homes and businesses in Houston aren’t insured for flood damage (either privately or through federal flood insurance programs), the financial toll could be catastrophic. “The majority of these losses will be uninsured, given that private flood insurance is limited,” said Michael Young, who heads RMS’ climate risk modeling in the Americas. This will present a challenge to Congress and the Trump administration when it begins work on aid for the area.

RMS said Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of individual National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies will almost certainly be affected by the devastation in Houston. It could be the largest event ever directed at the federal flood insurance program managed by FEMA, the agency in charge of the program, RMS said. The majority of the economic loss is likely to be in the metropolitan Houston area, where there are more than 7 million properties worth $1.5 trillion.

Harvey has broken all U.S. records for a single extreme-rainfall event, with cumulative amounts in some regions as high as 51 inches. As a result, RMS estimates the economic losses caused by a combination of wind, storm surge and inland flooding could be as high as $70-90 billion. But the losses could be even higher. RMS won’t issue its official insurance loss estimate for several weeks.

And it’s not just Harvey – severe flooding events are dominating news across the planet.

refineryflood

New York Times:

For years, much of the nation’s refinery capacity and chemical production have been concentrated along the swamps and narrow inlets of the Gulf of Mexico, risking devastation in a monster storm.

The pounding being endured by coastal Texas will probably be the biggest test of that risk so far, and energy experts say it raises questions about the area’s role as a hub for such crucial and environmentally sensitive industries.

“The hurricane did what terrorists could only dream of and take a third of U.S. refinery capacity off line for days on end,” said Michael E. Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. “Over the long term, the energy sector will have to consider the costs of additional hardening of the infrastructure on the Gulf Coast versus moving to a different location like the Eastern Seaboard.”

The Texas and Louisiana coasts took on their vital role because they link vast oil and gas resources, both inland and offshore, with Caribbean and Atlantic shipping channels. But the damage from Harvey, which arrived with hurricane force, has exposed a downside: vulnerability to storms that experts say are becoming more extreme because of climate change.

The damage, detailed in state and federal regulatory filings, is wide ranging: escaping gasoline from a submerged roof at a Phillips 66 storage tank; a sinking tank roof at Exxon Mobil’s vast refinery in Baytown, which resulted in the release of hazardous gases including volatile organic compounds and benzene, above permitted levels; and a lightning strike that disrupted operations and led to toxic-gas releases at a Dow Chemical plant in Freeport.

The full implications are potentially even larger. The environmental fallout could worsen, and if oil and natural gas prices spike because refineries and pipelines are crippled, renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, along with electric cars, could get a major lift. The United States could be forced to import more gasoline and other refined products. And a chemical industry that has been expanding rapidly because of cheap natural gas from shale fields could be slowed, or even stalled.

Politico:

The hole that Hurricane Harvey ripped across the energy industry along the Gulf Coast will take time to repair, and the Trump administration doesn’t look ready to tap into the government’s crude oil reserves to head off a jump in gasoline prices.

As much as 10 percent of the U.S. oil refining capacity was shut down in advance of the powerful storm that roared ashore and dumped several feet of rain along the coast from Corpus Christi into Louisiana. Those plants are likely to take weeks to return to full operation as crews pore over them looking for damage.

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If this is a teachable moment for Uncle Dittohead or Aunt Teabag, feel free to share.

Noah Diffenbaugh, above, and in an op-ed below.

New York Times:

Stanford, Calif. — On Sunday, amid the unfolding disaster in Texas, President Trump tweeted his amazement that Hurricane Harvey was producing unprecedented rainfall and flooding. He shouldn’t have been surprised.

Climate science has repeatedly shown that global warming is increasing the odds of extreme precipitation and storm surge flooding. Refusing to acknowledge this impairs our ability to prepare for future extreme weather and endangers American lives and property.

The storm has already caused tremendous damage in Houston and the surrounding region, including at least five deaths. And because it is likely to remain stalled along the Gulf Coast, more destruction seems a certainty.

Although seas have risen and warmed, and the atmosphere now holds more moisture, we can’t yet draw definitive conclusions about the influence of climate change on Hurricane Harvey. Hurricanes are complex events, and the role of historical warming in their development continues to be studied. But it is well established that global warming is already influencing many kinds of extremes, both in the United States and around the world, and it is critical to acknowledge this reality as we prepare for the future.

In particular, recent research shows that weather that falls outside of our historical experience is becoming more likely. For example, my colleagues and I recently found that global warming has already increased the odds of record-setting heat waves across more than 80 percent of the planet where we have reliable observations, and influenced record-setting wet and dry events across half that area.

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You’d think nobody ever watched “Jaws”.

Texas Tribune:

The area’s history is punctuated by such major back-to-back storms, but many residents say they are becoming more frequent and severe, and scientists agree.

“More people die here than anywhere else from floods,” said Sam Brody, a Texas A&M University at Galveston researcher who specializes in natural hazards mitigation. “More property per capita is lost here. And the problem’s getting worse.”

Why?

Scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston’s explosive growth is largely to blame. As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city’s vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes — including Virginia Hammond’s.

On top of that, scientists say climate change is causing torrential rainfall to happen more often, meaning storms that used to be considered “once-in-a-lifetime” events are happening with greater frequency. Rare storms that have only a miniscule chance of occurring in any given year have repeatedly battered the city in the past 15 years. And a significant portion of buildings that flooded in the same time frame were not located in the “100-year” floodplain — the area considered to have a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year — catching residents who are not required to carry flood insurance off guard.

Scientists say the Harris County Flood Control District, which manages thousands of miles of floodwater-evacuating bayous and helps enforce development rules, should focus more on preserving green space and managing growth. The City of Houston, too. And they say everyone should plan for more torrential rainfall because of the changing climate. (A host of cities in the U.S. and around the world are doing so.)

But county and city officials responsible for addressing flooding largely reject these arguments. Houston’s two top flood control officials say their biggest challenge is not managing rapid growth but retrofitting outdated infrastructure. Current standards that govern how and where developers and residents can build are mostly sufficient, they say. And all the recent monster storms are freak occurrences — not harbingers of global warming or a sign of things to come.

The longtime head of the flood control district flat-out disagrees with scientific evidence that shows development is making flooding worse. Engineering projects can reverse the effects of land development and are doing so, Mike Talbott said in an interview with The Texas Tribune and ProPublica in late August before his retirement after 18 years heading the powerful agency. (His successor shares his views.)

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Guardian:

Approximately one-quarter of Americans identify as evangelical Christians, and that group also tends to be more resistant to the reality of human-caused global warming. As a new paper by Brian Webb and Doug Hayhoe notes:

a 2008 study found that just 44% of evangelicals believed global warming to be caused mostly by human activities, compared to 64% of nonevangelicals (Smith and Leiserowitz, 2013) while, a 2011 survey found that only 27% of white evangelicals believed there to be a scientific consensus on climate change, compared to 40% of the American public (Public Religion Research Institute, 2011).

 

These findings appear to stem from two primary factors. First, evangelicals tend to be socially and politically conservative, and climate change is among the many issues that have become politically polarized in America. Second, there is sometimes a perceived conflict between science and religion, as Christians distrust what they perceive as scientists’ “moral agenda” on issues like evolution, stem cell research, and climate change. As Webb and Hayhoe describe it:

theological conservatism, scientific skepticism, political affiliation, and sociocultural influences have reinforced one another to instill climate skepticism into the evangelical tribe mentality, thus creating a formidable barrier to climate education efforts.

Evangelical climate leaders

There are also evangelicals who have tried to convince their peer group about the reality of human-caused climate change and our moral obligation to address it. These include the Evangelical Environmental Network, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, and evangelical climate scientists like Sir John Houghton and Doug Hayhoe’s daughter Katharine Hayhoe(one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people). However, a majority of evangelicals continue to reject the reality of human-caused climate change, and there hasn’t been research quantifying the effectiveness of these evangelical climate leadership efforts.

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