Cyclone Fani Kills at Least 38, Leaves Hundreds of Thousands Homeless in India and Bangladesh
Dozens are dead and hundreds of thousands homeless after the strongest cyclone to hit the Indian state of Odisha in 43 years, Reuters reported Sunday.
The powerful cyclone made landfall Friday morning near the Eastern Indian town of Puri with the strength of a category 3 hurricane, according to AccuWeather. The storm did major damage to the town, felling trees, blowing off roofs and destroying power lines, Reuters said. At least 38 people have died in Odisha, 25 of them in the Puri district, The Times of India reported Sunday. Another dozen people died when the storm moved on to Bangladesh as a tropical depression Saturday, AFP reported.
"Six people died after they were hit by falling trees or collapsed walls, and six have died from lightning," Bangladeshi disaster official Benazir Ahmed told AFP.
This video shared on social media captures the intensity of the #CycloneFani fury on Odisha coast. There is severe damage across the affected districts. Appeal all to contribute towards the Odisha CMRF to enable the State to take up the restoration works. pic.twitter.com/lklpmTU0UT— Vineel Krishna (@rvineel_krishna) May 5, 2019
However, the death toll could have been much higher if officials had not evacuated 1.2 million people in Odisha and more than 1.6 million people in Bangladesh ahead of the storm. Authorities had been preparing an evacuation plan since a cyclone in 1999 killed thousands in the region, The New York Times reported.
"In the event of such a major calamity like this — where Odisha was hit by close to a super-cyclone — instead of being a tragedy of humongous proportion, we are in the process of restoring critical infrastructure. That is the transformation that Odisha has had," the state's top government official Naveen Patnaik said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.
Disaster preparedness was the difference between #CycloneFani and a 1999 “super” cyclone that killed 10,000 in Indi… https://t.co/ZQQjzQSFDS— IFRC Asia Pacific (@IFRC Asia Pacific)1557018896.0
In India, the evacuation plan included sending out warnings via text messages and public address systems, and transporting people by bus to shelters stocked with food and water. Most everyone was out of harm's way when the cyclone struck Friday, The New York Times reported. In Bangladesh, vulnerable people were similarly moved to shelters, and the plan also seems to have been effective at reducing the death toll.
"I have a feeling that Allah favored us this time," Bangladeshi disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told The New York Times.
However, in both countries survivors face a daunting recovery process. Flooding inundated entire villages in both Odisha and Bangladesh and destroyed livelihoods, including damaging thousands of acres of crops in the latter country.
"See, our house is destroyed, our boat is destroyed — what can we do?" 21-year-old Puri fisherman Pikki Gopi told The New York Times. "We don't have any place to work, eat or sleep. We have nothing to do.''
Survivors were also concerned about food, AccuWeather reported, since the storm destroyed many grocery stores and food supplies. It also destroyed power lines and communications networks in parts of Odisha, including Puri, where officials said it would take at least a week to restore power.
Patnaik told the Hindustan Times that relief efforts were made more difficult by the rarity of the storm.
"Fani is one of the rarest of rare cyclones – the first to hit in 43 years and one of three to hit in 150 years. Because of the rarity, the prediction and tracking of the cyclone was challenging. In 24 hours, one was not sure of the trajectory it was going to take. Fani after landfall, tore apart the infrastructure, especially power, telecom and water supply, " Patnaik said.
Fani was so powerful partly because of climate change, The Times of India reported. The water temperatures in the Bay of Bengal were more than one degree Celsius warmer than the long-term average as the storm was forming, giving the storm more energy. This is the same effect that super-charged Hurricane Michael in Florida last year.
Warm sea surface temperatures (between 30-31 degrees Celsius) along with warm, humid air provided fuel for #Fani as… https://t.co/H0Kh4vSqw6— NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)1556971816.0
"Fani is just the latest reminder of the heightened threat that millions of people around the world face from the combination of rising seas and more intense hurricanes and typhoons," Penn State University Atmospheric Science Professor Dr. Michael Mann told The Times of India. "That threat will only rise if we continue to warm the planet by burning fossil fuels and emitting carbon into the atmosphere."
Mozambique Hit by Second Historic Cyclone in Little Over a Month https://t.co/HpgzugtDPB— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro_Voter) April 26, 2019
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Grubert
Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6bd9fda1316965a9ba24dd60fd9cc34d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3KaMnkmf0tc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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