We made it through 2017. It was a farkin’ disaster for the most part, but we did it. Trump was every bit the train wreck of a president I thought he’d be, and we’re leaning into economic territory we haven’t been in since 2007–lots of debt that’s unsustainable, that will never be repaid, and trillions of derivatives being traded (something I may address in a future blogpost). On the climate front, we’re proving the Guy McPherson bromide that ‘Nature Bats Last’. The worst hurricane season ever recorded, not in sheer numbers of storms but the ferocity of same. As this article points out, our previous worst hurricane year, 2005, resulted in $143 B in damage. We already know that Harvey and Irma cost some $300 billion, and that’s not counting the devastation Hurricane Maria put on Puerto Rico. And remnants of two hurricanes hit the UK with 80 MPH winds.
(Incidentally, the death toll from the year’s hurricanes may be seriously out of whack on the low side. Puerto Rico’s ‘official’ death count from Maria was 64, but that has a lot to do with the inability to count the dead on an island where half the residents still don’t have electricity. A report from the Times updates the death count to 1,052).
Then there were the wildfires in California. Record wildfire season as of late November, with new fires still to come. Pictures of horrific fire hit most news, but the newsreaders attempted to keep climate out of it (as in ‘we can’t tell if this was caused by global warming’). And news about wildfires kept news about a lousy agricultural season off the news. Counting lost crops and other (relatively minor) climate-based bad news, 2017 probably cost the US economy a half-trillion in losses. That means it’s probably half a trillion that won’t be made up by government largesse thanks to the $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut pushed through by Trump and the GOP.
Speaking of Trump, his response to the weather:
We’ve had another moment of climate disruption thanks to the warm water now flowing upward into the Arctic in an unprecedented fashion. Places like Minnesota and Ottawa are seeing temperatures of -34 F, colder than the Arctic right now. Well of COURSE They are! As blogger Robin Westenra noted in a post a few days ago, the whole of the Polar vortex has moved south.
See the blue in this map? It shouldn’t be there, it should be northward, where it would help stabilize the ongoing Arctic ice melt-off. See the Siberian areas in dark red? that’s the area being warmed and destabilized by global warming, and it’s releasing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and methane as the permafrost becomes markedly less permanent.
You don’t need to keep reading to know that there’s not going to be any money in the budget to pay for increased resilience. California’s not going to get augmented prevention against the wildfires, and the Gulf Coast won’t get money to either build levees or buy out people in vulnerable areas. There’s a state program in Louisiana to buy out people living in the Coastal plain. They’re not waiting for federal intervention. People who read here might note that I called out Louisiana a couple of years ago. Coastal flooding may mean that big swathes of the US are red-lined out of insurance. Does capitalism survive in places where you can’t insure your business?
2017 ‘gifted’ us with the unconcealed coming-attractions trailer of the worsening disasters we’ll see. We all know the political disaster unfolding here in the US. Beyond a critique of the GOP’s tax policies or Trump’s increasing bellicosity with regard to North Korea, the weather alone is becoming sufficiently weaponized to do us in. I was fortunate enough to see several friends in the NTHE cult over the holidays including Dr. McPherson himself. There’s a special poignancy in greeting people who are all too aware that every meeting might be our last. It’s something we share. Yes, sometimes it feels like a cult. I’d prefer to think of us as being a secret society, a new version of the White Rose, people who are in on the truth and must seek each other out.
PS: I am the simple artist. I actually use this picture on my blog. I could be wrong.