Extreme Weather a Huge Threat, Trump’s Actions Make It Worse
By Joel Scata
Yet, President Trump, who addressed the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland Friday, fails to recognize these risks and, in fact, has taken many actions that make the nation more vulnerable to them.
Global Risks Report 2018, World Economic Forum
Extreme Weather Equals Extreme Costs
The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2018 ranked extreme weather, natural disasters, and our collective failure to mitigate and adapt to a climate change as some of the greatest and most likely risks facing humanity in the next 10 years. And their warnings are not meritless. Climate change is already helping to fuel more extreme storms.
Such extreme weather events can be economically and socially devastating for many regions of the world. These events, such as catastrophic hurricanes, major floods and prolonged high temperatures and droughts, are expected to occur more frequently and at greater magnitude in the coming decades. These events will further stress many countries beset by poverty and instability, and could potentially result in water crises and large-scale migrations of refugees, inflaming regional tensions. According to the report, "76% of the 31.1 million people displaced during 2016 were forced from their homes as a result of weather-related events."
For the U.S., extreme weather events cause billions of dollars in disaster-related damages. In the 2017, sixteen weather-related disasters, each exceeding $1 billion in damage, occurred in the U.S. Hurricane Harvey, alone, has likely cost $125 billion in damages.
As this graphic demonstrates, the number of these events and their associated costs has steadily increased.
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2018).
This trend will likely continue to increase as climate change continues to load the dice when it comes to extreme events.
"America First" in Exposure to Impacts of Climate Change
However, the Trump administration appears hell-bent on taking the U.S. in reverse. The administration has strived to cast doubt on the existence of climate change and its role in fueling these disasters. Many of the Trump administration's actions, like revoking the federal flood protection standard, are inapposite to findings of the report, and have undermined the nation's ability to mitigate and adapt.
The Trump administration has taken a hatchet to numerous laws, regulations, and policies that, if left in place, would have made America stronger and safer in the face of climate change impacts. Instead, Trump's anti-environment agenda has left the U.S. exposed, threatening human health and safety, and the nation's long-term economic prosperity. Here is a list of just some of Trump's dangerous actions:
- Revoking the Federal Flood Protection Standard which required tax-payer funded infrastructure to be built with a higher margin of safety against flooding;
- Rescinding a policy that required federal agencies to develop plans and strategies to protect their program and investments from climate impacts, like major storms, floods, and sea level rise;
- Killing an order that required the military and other national security groups to prepare for the national security implications of climate change;
- And the list goes on....
An Extreme Future for America
Climate change is not a matter of "if;" it is occurring and will continue to occur with worsening severity, unless action is taken to mitigate and adapt to its impacts. The Trump administration would be wise to heed the warnings of the report because its current actions set the U.S. up to fail. One only need to look to the past year to see the implications of a future of more extreme weather. And America is on a path to be vastly unprepared.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.