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New Statesman:

In November, as wildfires ripped through California, Kim Kardashian hired a squad of private firefighters to protect her $50m estate in Calabasas. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Blackwater security guards defended the houses of the hyper rich against feared hordes of looters while their occupants were quietly helicoptered to safety.

Elsewhere, the hyper rich make plans to flee the planet altogether. From Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme to the would-be citizens of space-based micro nation Asgardia, venture capitalist space exploration is being packaged as humanity’s pioneering attempt to save itself from destruction.

These are not anomalies. Private insurance companies like AIG and Chubb have boasted about their increased provisions against the rapidly increasing numbers of natural disasters like wildfires. Others are scrambling to offset their exposure to the gathering effects of climate chaos. As the waters rise, the rich are readying their arks – quietly preparing themselves for climate chaos. If history teaches us anything, it’s that elites build their castles high above the filth.

A small handful of companies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of fossil fuel emissions. Their effects are visited worst upon the poor. Repeated studies have shown that the global poor – left without stockpiles, without armies of private firefighters – are the most exposed to the immediate effects of climate change. If capitalism’s accumulated wealth does not successfully trickle down, its climate miseries certainly do.

Guardian:

Insurers have warned that climate change could make cover for ordinary people unaffordable after the world’s largest reinsurance firm blamed global warming for $24bn (£18bn) of losses in the Californian wildfires.

Ernst Rauch, Munich Re’s chief climatologist, told the Guardian that the costs could soon be widely felt, with premium rises already under discussion with clients holding asset concentrations in vulnerable parts of the state.

“If the risk from wildfires, flooding, storms or hail is increasing then the only sustainable option we have is to adjust our risk prices accordingly. In the long run it might become a social issue,” he said after Munich Re published a report into climate change’s impact on wildfires. “Affordability is so critical [because] some people on low and average incomes in some regions will no longer be able to buy insurance.”

The lion’s share of California’s 20 worst forest blazes since the 1930s have occurred this millennium, in years characterised by abnormally high summer temperatures and “exceptional dryness” between May and October, according to a new analysis by Munich Re.

Wetter and more humid winters spurred new forest growth which became tinder dry in heatwave conditions that preceded the wildfires, the report’s authors said.

After comparing observational data spanning several decades with climate models, the report concluded that the wildfires, which killed 85 people, were “broadly consistent with climate change”.

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Africa’s Katrina

March 21, 2019

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It’s going to be a long century.

Jeff Masters in Weather Underground:

Over 400 are dead and countless more are at grave risk, huddled on rooftops or clinging to trees, in the horrifying aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. In scenes reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, aerial survey teams photographed thousands of marooned people in the “inland ocean” up to 30 miles wide that heavy rains from Idai have created in central Mozambique.

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Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall on Thursday evening as a Category 2 storm with 110 mph winds just north of Beira, Mozambique (population 530,000) near the time of high tide, driving a devastating storm surge into the city. The cyclone also caused enormous wind damage, ripping off hundreds of roofs in Mozambique’s fourth largest city. Since the cyclone was large and moving slowly at landfall, near 6 mph, it was a prodigious rainmaker, with satellite-estimated rainfall amounts in excess of 2 feet in much of central Mozambique. Idai stalled and died over the high terrain along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border on Saturday, but Idai’s remains hovered over the region through Tuesday, bringing additional heavy rains–over a foot in eastern Zimbabwe. Runoff from these rains have submerged huge portions of central Mozambique. Damage to improverished Mozambique, whose GDP is just $12 billion, will be many billions of dollars and take more than five years to recover from.

Over 400 deaths have been officially attributed to the storm, including the 122 deaths that occurred in northern Mozambique and southern Malawi in early March from the tropical disturbance that eventually became Idai. The subsequent landfall of Idai is being blamed for 202 deaths in Mozambique, 102 deaths in Zimbabwe, 7 in South Africa, and 3 in Madagascar. President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique said he expects the toll to exceed 1000 in that nation, which would make it their deadliest storm on record.

Officials in Zimbabwe said they expect the death toll to reach 350 there. According to EM-DAT, this would be the deadliest flood on record for Zimbabwe, exceeding the toll of 251 in January 2017 from Tropical Cyclone Dineo.

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ABC:

Thousands of people, some seen clinging to rooftops and tree branches, still await rescue from rising floodwaters in Mozambique, one week after an intense tropical cyclone walloped the southeast African nation.

Nearly 350,000 others are at risk of becoming trapped in the coming days as remnants of tropical cyclone Idai dump rain over low-lying areas already inundated with swelling rivers and bulging dams.

Some 100,000 people may need to be rescued from the town of Buzi alone, according to a spokesman for Mozambique’s Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development.

“We have a critical situation in Buzi,” the spokesman, who asked not to be named, told ABC News via telephone Thursday. “If the rainfall increases, then those 100,000 need to be rescued. Levels of the dam are going high.”

The heavy rain let up in Buzi and the hard-hit port city of Beira on Thursday, but showers are expected to return in the coming hours and days. Aid agencies worry additional rainfall will impede rescue missions.

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A western Nor’Easter.

Nothing to see here.

By the way, what the heck is a bomb cyclone? Two takes.

The new word I learned from this one wasn’t “bombogenesis” – but “Kentuckiana”.

With the 20 year anniversary of the publication of the hockey stick graph, time for a review.

Above, a history of science denial, from tobacco to climate change, finds that the same characters keep showing up.

Below, in recent years, the attacks on science have become more focused and threatening, as fossil fuel interests have leaned hard on their allies in congress to pursue and intimidate scientists.

From C-Span, if you have not seen Michael Mann’s testimony before the House Science Committee in defense of the original Hockey Stick, do give this a look. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hockey Stick at 20

March 21, 2019

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Replicated now many times, the Hockey Stick graph of global temperatures has withstood the test of time.  Only dead enders argue about it any more.

But the war on science and fact that followed climate findings like this has deeply degraded our public dialogue, one of the most toxic and tragic legacies of climate denial, and a threat to democracy that we see playing out every day.

Dan Satterfield for AGU Blogs:

That graph that would become known as the hockey stick. It was published in a paper by Dr. Michael Mann et. al on 15 March 1999 in the AGU Journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The stick was a powerful image showing how fast our planet’s temperature was rising compared to the stable climate of the past 1000 years. In 1999, there were a large number of people who insisted that the planet was not warming at all, and some even insisted that a new ice age was looming! The hockey stick showed clearly that we were indeed warming, and that something bad was happening to our stable climate.

Twenty years have passed, and the hockey stick has stood up against the firestorm of criticism it elicited.  (Read this.) Most of that was from people with no background in science. Those who talk about any science quickly learn that when you show someone information that conflicts with their worldview, they will often dismiss it and or get angry, and accuse you of showing them fake data. This includes people who do not believe in vaccines and others who DO believe in chemtrails, UFO’s, or that pro-wrestling is real.

All of this happened to Dr. Mann after that paper was published, and all of it fell by the wayside as others did what science requires: replication. Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t pop the Champaign yet, but this new court ruling might be part of a trend.

AP via CBS:

BILLINGS, Mont. — A judge blocked oil and gas drilling across almost 500 square miles in Wyoming and said the U.S. government must consider climate change impacts more broadly as it leases huge swaths of public land for energy exploration.

The order marks the latest in a string of court rulings over the past decade — including one last month in Montana — that have faulted the U.S. for inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas and coal projects on federal land.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington appeared to go a step further than other judges in his order issued late Tuesday.

Previous rulings focused on individual lease sales or permits. But Contreras said that when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctions public lands for oil and gas leasing, officials must consider emissions from past, present and foreseeable future oil and gas leases nationwide.

“Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land,” Contreras wrote.

The ruling coincides with an aggressive push by President Donald Trump’s administration to open more public lands to energy development.

It came in a lawsuit that challenged leases issued in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 2015 and 2016, during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Only the leases in Wyoming were immediately addressed in Contreras’ ruling. It blocks federal officials from issuing drilling permits until they conduct a new environmental review looking more closely at greenhouse gas emissions.

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Circle of Blue:

Swelled by rainfall and melted snow, the Missouri River and its tributaries reached record levels this weekend in some of the worst flooding ever registered in parts of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Rising rivers displayed the destructive power of water: they overtopped levees and ripped apart roads. Dozens of wastewater plants failed and are discharging untreated sewage. Near Omaha, one-third of Offutt Air Force Base, the latest U.S. military installation to be damaged recently in floods, was underwater. (Tyndall Air Force Base, in Florida, suffered at least $5 billion in damage after Hurricane Michael last year.)

Elsewhere in Nebraska, the failure of the 90-year-old Spencer Dam sent an 11-foot wall of water down the Niobrara River, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. The deluge compromised wells in the town of Niobrara, where residents were receiving bottled water.

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The Missouri River at Plattsmouth, Nebraska crested at 40.6 feet on Saturday, nearly 4 feet higher than the previous record. It was one of at least 17 locations through the weekend that set a new high-water mark.

Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, is under mandatory water restrictions following a power outage at its water production facility. Mayor Chris Beutler issued the order on Sunday afternoon after a levee upstream of the city’s well field was breached. Flooding cut electricity to the wells and temporarily stopped water production.

Water production is up to 32 million gallons a day as of Monday afternoon, but residents have been asked to cut indoor water use in half and not use any water outdoors.

“That production is enough to meet the community’s basic needs for drinking water, health, and sanitation,” Beutler said at a news conference. “However, it is not enough to meet the rest of the community’s other daily water usage. That’s why it’s imperative that residents understand where we are on water conservation and adjust their strategies accordingly.”

Flood waters have not contaminated Lincoln’s water supply, Beutler said. But there are risks elsewhere.

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