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The National Security Threat that Inflicted 400 Billion in Damages This Year

Back in the 1990s, the U.S. Navy asked Congress to address the issue of rising sea levels at the Norfolk Naval Base. The Navy wanted to raise the piers, which were becoming vulnerable to flooding due to rising waters. For various reasons, including climate change denial, Congress has delayed funding for elevating the base’s 12 piers beyond the present and near term projected reach of ongoing sea level rise. Only four so far have been lifted.

According to former Norfolk Naval Base Commander Joe Bouchard, “Washington went bonkers” when it failed to recognize and address an obvious problem — sea level rise.

Up and down the U.S. coastline, the story is much the same. But it’s not just a case of Navy Base piers. It’s a case that every coastal city in the U.S. now faces rising seas threatening homes, real estate, infrastructure. And at the same time that seas are rising, the strongest storms are growing stronger and fire seasons that once ran through a few months of the year in places like California are now a year-round affair.

(A ribbon-thin rise of land separates the Norfolk Naval Base from flooding due to climate change driven sea level rise. Flooded bases not a national security threat? See related article by Vox. Image source: Wikipedia.)

This is the very definition of climate change as a threat to the security, not just to the world’s largest naval base, but to most if not all of the United States.

So how bonkers is Donald Trump and the climate change denying GOP now? How nuts is it that Trump yesterday made the anti-factual determination, in bald defiance of a plethora of U.S. military leaders, that “climate change is not a national security threat?”

Increasingly Destructive Hurricanes are Putting a Growing Number of People and Structures at Risk

This year, the U.S. has experienced not one, not two, not three, not four, but at least five major weather disasters that were made much worse by human-caused climate change. Three of them — hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey all roared out of a warming ocean. They all formed in a hotter atmosphere loaded up with a higher level of moisture. These factors gave them more fuel to feed on. They unarguably increased their peak potential intensity. Scientific studies have found that Harvey alone was three times more likely to form due to human-caused climate change. That its rainfall was considerably enhanced in a warmer atmosphere.

The storms ran in to land on a higher ramp. Seas, like those at the Naval Base and in so many other places, have risen by a foot or more from the Gulf Coast to New England and on into the Caribbean because the Earth has, indeed, warmed. And this made storm surge impacts worse.

You could go on and on with the list of climate change related factors that compounded this year’s disasters. About the climate zones moving north. About hot blobs in the ocean and bigger blocks in the atmosphere. About enhanced convection and ice cliff instability. About ridiculously resilient ridges and persistent troughs. But it’s just a simple fact that the storms were worse than they would have been. That climate change made them more likely (in some cases far more likely) to occur in the first place. In total, and in large part due to the nefarious influence of fossil fuel burning on the world’s weather, these three storms alone have inflicted 368 billion dollars in damages.

That’s billion with a capital B. A level of harm often attributed to warfare but one that can instead be put at the feet of weather indiscriminately weaponized by fossil fuel burning. For the Atlantic Hurricane season this year, at a time when global temperatures are 1.1 to 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages, was the most destructive ever recorded.┬áThese climate change enhanced storms left whole island nations and entire regions in ruins. In many cases it will take months, years, or even a decade or more to fully recover.

Wildfires are Increasing and Wildfire Season is Getting Longer in the Western U.S.

But in the grim tally of climate change related damages during 2017, we don’t stop at just hurricanes. For California, during 2017 experienced its worst fire season on record. One in which 11,306 structures have so far been damaged or destroyed. We say so far because what is likely to become the largest fire in California history — the Thomas Fire — is still burning.

11,306 structures would be enough to make a decent sized city. All gone due to a fire season that is now year round. Due to western heating, drying and temperature extremes that are increasingly forced to well outside the normal range. Total damages this year for California are presently estimated at more than 13 billion dollars. That’s nothing to shake a stick at. But this damage total is likely to continue to climb as the tally of losses is counted.

(Abnormally above average temperatures and below average precipitation contributed to fire danger in California during December. This odd heat and drought was driven, in no small part, by climate change. Image source: NOAA.)

As with hurricanes, the presently more intense fires are linked in numerous ways to a warming climate. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of evaporation and the intensity of precipitation in the most extreme events. Such variance increases the rate at which vegetation grows during wet season and the rate at which it dries during times when the rains depart. This adds more ready fuels for fires. In addition, northward movement of the Arctic sea ice contributes to an overall warmer and drier pattern for the U.S. West. This pattern, helps to produce stronger high pressure systems that, in turn, strengthen the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds.

This year, December, which is typically a wet month for the U.S. West, especially during La Nina (which we are presently experiencing) has been incredibly dry. This dryness helped to fuel the Thomas Fire. But the dryness didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was associated with a major climate change related influx of heat into the Arctic linked to climate change driven polar amplification.

Failure to Recognize Climate Change Leaves U.S. Citizens Vulnerable to Harm

Anyone following the increasingly clear evidence of how Trump campaign officials coordinated with Russia to disrupt the 2016 elections and how ardently Trump is attempting to cover the whole thing up could draw the reasonable conclusion that Trump cares more about his own personal advancement than the safety and security of the American people. Trump’s, and by extension, the GOP’s climate change denial, can be seen through the same morally relativistic lens. Wealthy fossil fuel donors have for a long time now held an unreasonable influence over persons in higher office. The denial of climate change for both the Republican Congress and the Presidency is, in other words, well-funded.

(GOP funding by fossil fuel donors just keeps going up and up in lockstep with GOP climate change denial and anti-environmental policy. Image source: InsideClimate News.)

Such denial may line the pocketbooks of republican politicians and wealthy oil, gas, and ailing coal companies. But it places the American people, their homes, their livelihoods, beneath the blade of a falling ax. So when Trump says climate change is a hoax, forces government websites to shut down, scrubs words related to climate change from government communications, opposes alternative clean energy, and tells the Department of Defense not to treat climate change as a national security threat, he is culpable and a contributor to a very clear, present, and growing danger.

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Romney, in Apology Tour of Lies, Seeks to Profit Politically From Harm to Americans

Ever since extremist-perpetrated attacks on US Embassies in the Middle East began, Romney has endlessly accused Obama of ‘apologizing for America.’ And despite every fact-checker across the political spectrum calling Romney a ‘liar, liar, pants on fire,’ he has continued to repeat this false statement over and over again.

The irresponsibility of Romney’s use of harm and danger to Americans as a political football is difficult to over-emphasize. Political adults, left and right, set aside partisan bickering to present a united front to America’s enemies at a time of national crisis, and especially during a time when war-like violence is being waged against America’s citizens abroad. The reason for presenting a unified front to our enemies is that it serves to deter further assault. It shows that we are resolved. That we will not back down. That we are not divided one against the other and, therefore, easy to take advantage of as a nation.

Romney has decidedly failed in this most basic act of patriotism. And in doing so, he empowers our enemies.

So far, at least nine Americans have been killed in this rash of unconscionable violence. We will never know how many of the attackers felt empowered by the fact that a man who could be President stood apart from those condemning the violence and instead leveled a rhetorical assault against our Commander-in-Chief. We will never know how much the crisis has been enflamed by his verbal attacks. Nor will we know how much damage he has done to the institution of the President and of national defense in his failure to behave responsibly.

Had his political attacks been true, there could, at least, be a shred of excuse for Romney’s vicious assault on US foreign policy. But Romney, in a propagandist and vitriolic manner has endlessly repeated a lie. Only in Romney’s insane political conversation with an invisible Obama in an empty chair has Obama apologized for America. Only Romney’s imaginary straw-man Obama which is as unreal as Romney’s sense of how to employ political speech to defend American interests or to defuse dangerous situations abroad. Yet now, the image grows even darker. For the empty seat Romney hurls his insults at may well harbor the ghost of an American diplomat.

If Romney were a soldier he would be placed under arrest for insubordination and risking the safety of the unit during a time of war. Instead, Romney plays the part of a chicken-hawk politician who, in a far safer position than any of the brave diplomats at these Middle Eastern embassies, imagines himself to possess a knowledge of foreign policy as great as a whale compared to its ant actuality.

And so he blunders about in a fierce, horrible, Godzilla-like fashion, leaving in his wake a bizarre and grotesque wreckage. And so his loose-cannon antics do their damage without a shred of accountability or repercussion.

During the writing of this blog, two more Americans have died. Two more American lives lost amounting to nothing more than a political tool for Romney’s personal advancement. As Americans we should not allow such crass and heartless political profiteering to the detriment of national security. As Americans we should not stand by and let a person of such high position use the national narrative and the political process for such a hollow personal gain. As Americans we should not stand by as Romney turns the deaths of Americans into a bloody political football.

Please join me in signing this petition to Stop Romney’s Apology Tour of Lies.

Halt the nonsense. Stand aside. And give America’s foreign policy and national security professionals a chance to do their work.

Is Climate Change Denial a Threat to US National Security?

As farmers across the US stagger under the worst drought since at least the 1980s and as climate scientists are showing that global warming was the primary cause for this drought and will result in even worse droughts to follow, one has to wonder who really has the best interests of the United States at heart.

Conservatives have tended to align themselves with fossil fuel special interests, seeking political funding and support from a vast array of special interest and lobbying firms aligned with these groups. And much political effort on the part of conservative politicians and think tanks has been spent on degrading or denying the impact of climate change in the public mind. These efforts have been aimed largely at reducing costs, lowering taxes, and increasing subsidies for fossil fuel extraction industries and efforts. And the result has been an ever increasing volume of carbon dioxide pumped into our atmosphere.

And as we can see from the drought, fires, sea ice melt, and increasing instances of extreme weather, this carbon dioxide is exacting a devastating economic toll. Hundreds of homes burned, millions without power, tens of thousands losing well water and forced to ship in water to make up the difference, vast areas of crops lost, greatly increased cooling costs, hundreds of millions of trees lost. These are just a few of the impacts that can be linked to human caused climate change and their cost can be measured, not in billions, but in tens and likely hundreds of billions of dollars. The result is that each barrel of oil is likely costing us between 50 and 100 dollars extra in added weather and extreme climate damage. And this global warming tax foisted on the rest of us by the free-wheeling fossil fuel interests has a major impact on our country’s ability to function.

According to Munich Re, $10 billion dollars in damage was caused to insured assets in the US due to extreme weather events during the first half of this year alone. And that doesn’t include the massive damage to crops, fish, forests and wildlife. Nor does it include the increasing threat of world hunger due to climate change induced drought, or the increased cost to American families who must now purchase their food at higher prices. Nor does it include the cost to many Americans in the midwest who are now forced to ship water in because their wells ran dry.

Overall, and added all together, this is a staggering loss. But if we are to believe the scientists, those scientists like James Hansen whose predictions for climate change have been accurate, if slightly conservative, thus far, then what we are seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg. Within 30 years, according to a more recent nature report, summers like this year could be occurring each year, with extreme events looking like something we’ve never experienced before. In short, if you think this summer was bad, hold on to your hats, because things are bound to get much worse.

In this country, many people seem concerned about external threats to US national security. But the loss of tens and hundreds of billions of dollars as a result of damage caused by climate change month after month, year after year, is a persistent impact far exceeding that of any typical war. It is an event in which we have riled nature to the point where she consistently and with ever greater frequency turns on us. If this is not a clear, present, and increasing danger, then it is difficult to say what it.

We have known, for years, that policy solutions for reducing and eventually eliminating the harm caused by global warming were at hand. But we have consistently refused to use those tools in favor of the assurances given us by fossil fuel special interests. Now, during one of the worst extended severe weather events in US history, it is time to reassess those policies. It is high time that we brought funding and incentives to increase use of alternative energy supplies: wind, solar, electrical vehicles. It is high time we brought taxation measures into effect that limit and reduce the use of fossil fuels. And it is high time we took the world stage as leaders in a transition away from carbon-based fuels rather than as antagonists who continue to do damage to the world’s climate system.

Many have painted this choice with the brush of ‘ceding US leadership.’ But the real cessation of US leadership will occur when the heartland dries out and US agriculture withers. The real loss of US leadership is happening now as we make the choice not to employ US workers in an expanding alternative energy industry. The real decline is happened as we shackle ourselves to fuels that will wreck the environment and abandon us through depletion and increased costs at our moment of greatest economic need.

The choice to turn away from fossil fuels couldn’t be clearer. And the time for this, if it wasn’t yesterday, is certainly now. Now. Now is the time to make a concerted path away from the carbon era. This is no longer a choice for saving our grandchildren, our children. It is a choice to save our own futures and it is high time we rose to the challenge.

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