Flooding and Climate Change: French Acceptance, Texas Denial
By Elliott Negin
Texas and France have a number of things in common. They're roughly the same size. They were both republics. They have delectable, widely loved cuisines. And, just last week, both were battered by torrential rains and flooding turbocharged by human-made global warming.
What's different between them? Plenty, to be sure, but given that the recent deluge is the topic du jour, what's most interesting are the diametrically opposite views French and Lone Star state officials hold about the climate change connection. For the French, it's "Mais oui, bien sûr!" But as far as the Texans are concerned, "It just ain't happenin'."
But before diving into that, let's survey the damage.
Paris, France, was particularly hard-hit. The Seine crested at 20 feet above its usual levels last Saturday, more than 19,000 metro area homes lost electric power and 20,000 people in Nemours and other towns had to temporarily evacuate their homes. May was the country's rainiest month since 1886, according to Radio France International and as of last Saturday, the flood-related death toll stood at four.
The river Seine in Paris has finally peaked, as storms play havoc right across Europe. @benlewismedia reports. https://t.co/xI3T4zhLWa— 7 News Melbourne (@7 News Melbourne)1465115026.0
Paris, Texas, was largely spared. But in the southeastern section of the state, floods killed at least 17 and dozens more are missing. The Brazos River, which cuts diagonally across the state, reached a record flood level of 54 feet near Richmond, 30 miles southwest of Houston and some 1,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes in Fort Bend County. Meanwhile, more than 130 roads were either flooded or closed and the governor declared 46 counties disaster areas.
Homes Under Flood Water in Rosenberg, Texas https://t.co/hutAzboiXq https://t.co/wflSzaUIpD— Tubeline News (@Tubeline News)1464695716.0
Climate Change is Making Things Worse
Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences published a study that definitively verified that human-caused climate change is exacerbating heat waves, droughts and heavy precipitation, but Texas and France are already painfully aware of the consequences. The catastrophic flooding they just experienced is not the first time they have been slammed by punishing, climate change-related weather.
Texas is getting pummeled by a double-whammy: extreme precipitation and drought, depending on the Pacific Ocean's natural cycles that can either produce hot and dry (La Niña) or wet and cool (El Niño) conditions. Climate change intensifies the weather events they spawn.
Last year, for example, more than 35 trillion gallons of water fell on Texas in May, enough to flood the state's entire 268,820 square miles with 8 inches of water. A study published last October in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concluded that "anthropogenic [human-caused] global warming contributed to the physical processes that caused the persistent precipitation in May 2015."
Back in 2011, meanwhile, Texas suffered the costliest drought in its history. Texas A&M University calculated that farmers and ranchers lost $7.82 billion. The likely culprit? Climate change. A July 2012 study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society compared the dry La Niña year of 2008 with La Niña years in the 1960s and determined that climate change has made extreme hot and dry conditions in Texas in La Niña years 20 times more likely today than 50 years ago.
As for France, a deadly heat wave centered in that country in August 2003 killed more than 70,000 people across the continent. It was the hottest European summer on record since at least the year 1500 and apparently a harbinger of things to come. A December 2014 study in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that Europe is now 10 times more likely to experience a similarly extreme heat wave than it was a decade ago because of human-made global warming.
France also will likely have to cope with more floods. A March 2014 study in Nature Climate Change projects that by mid-century the frequency of flooding across Europe could double and the annual average losses could jump fivefold. The study attributed two-thirds of those financial losses to development in flood-prone areas and the remaining third to climate change.
French Acceptance, Texas Denial
How did elected officials in France and Texas react to what amounts to just the latest in a steady parade of climate change-related, extreme weather disasters?
French President François Hollande unambiguously linked the rains and flooding to global warming. "When there are climatic phenomena of this seriousness," he said, "we must all be aware that we must act globally." Hollande's perspective is representative of the view held by virtually all elected officials in France, regardless of party affiliation.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, meanwhile, was forced to declare a state of disaster in four dozen Texas counties or, as he put it, "literally from the Red River to the Rio Grande," but made no mention of the role climate change likely played.
That's not a surprise: Abbott is a climate science denier. He maintains it is an open question whether human activity is influencing the climate. "We must be good guardians of our Earth," he told the San Antonio Express-News in 2014, "but we must base our decisions on peer-reviewed scientific inquiry, free from political demagogues using climate change as an excuse to remake the American economy."
Never mind that peer-reviewed science is unequivocal about the threat carbon emissions pose to the climate.
What about U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who represents a Texas congressional district that includes San Antonio and Austin? Both cities just experienced intense rain and severe flooding and Smith is the chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee. Surely the head of a science committee must be aware of the link between global warming and extreme weather.
Nope. Like Abbott, Smith is a confirmed climate science denier. Although he rejected that characterization during a meeting with constituents last November, claiming that he's merely a "semi-skeptic," he went on to dispute mainstream climate science.
"I think the human component may actually be a small fraction of the contributing forces on climate change," Smith told the gathering. He then erroneously claimed "natural causes" and changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis over time play a more significant role.
Likewise, Smith dismisses the climate change-severe weather connection. "Administration officials and the national media regularly use the impacts from hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods to justify the need for costly climate change regulations," he said in a December 2013 press release. "The fact is there is little evidence that climate change causes extreme weather events."
Smith not only subscribes to specious theories about climate change, he also harasses climate scientists in the federal government and at nonprofit organizations with whom he disagrees. Last fall, for example, he subpoenaed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for its internal emails and research data because he believes the agency's scientists are using "skewed" data. And just last month, he requested internal documents and emails from my organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists, because we have been openly encouraging state attorneys general to investigate ExxonMobil for failing to disclose to investors and the public what its scientists knew about climate change.
Vive la Différence?
What could explain this stark divide between French and Texan politicians? There may be a number of reasons, but an obvious one to consider is the role of undue corporate influence. In France, corporations are not allowed to donate money or provide services to political candidates or political parties. In Texas, it's a very different story.
Abbott, a former Texas attorney general, won the governorship in 2014. The $4.2 million he received in contributions from the oil and gas industry for his gubernatorial campaign was more than twice the amount he got from any other sector. Among his top benefactors were Nustar Energy ($90,000), Koch Industries ($57,500) and Valero Energy ($50,000). Other donors included ExxonMobil, which kicked in $15,000 and Chevron and ConocoPhillips, which each donated $12,500.
The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, has been Smith's leading patron during his nearly 30 years in office. Over the last decade, his biggest contributors from that sector include Koch Industries, which gave him $87,000 and Valero Energy, which gave him more than $100,000.
So how well do French and Texan politicians reflect public opinion in their respective locales?
According to a November 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 56 percent of the French people consider climate change to be a "very serious problem" and 86 percent endorse an international agreement limiting carbon emissions. Presumably most French citizens supported President Hollande when he declared at the U.N. climate conference in Paris last December that the world "is entering the low-carbon era" and that "France will do everything it can not only to enforce the [international] agreement—that is our responsibility—but to accelerate the movement" to dramatically cut carbon emissions.
On the other hand, Abbott, Smith and the other climate science deniers in the Texas statehouse and congressional delegation are letting their constituents down. A September 2013 survey conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that 70 percent of Texans accept the fact that global warming is happening and more than 50 percent want local, state and federal officials to do more to address it.
So what is to be done?
There's an old Texas saying that points to the fact that special interest money rules today's politics—at least in the U.S. It goes like this: "You got to dance with them that brung you." Given the likelihood Texans are in for a lot more drought and flooding, it's about time they interrupted that two-step and cut in.
Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Environmental officials and members of the U.S. Coast Guard are racing to clean up a mysterious oil spill that has spread to 11 miles of Delaware coastline.
- Trans Mountain Pipeline Spills up to 50,000 Gallons of Oil on ... ›
- Citgo Must Pay $143M for a Delaware River Oil Spill, Supreme ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
- The Complex and Frustrating Reality of Recycling Plastic - EcoWatch ›
- The Recycling Dilemma: Good Plastic, Bad plastic? - EcoWatch ›
- The Myth About Recycling Plastic? It Works - EcoWatch ›
Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
Is More CBD Really Better?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzYxMDMzN30.6B08i5QYW_Iq5bUf3qtm8oK8o6FKsRUZ74gdakgJ_TY/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ef5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac86abf3ce246742b18b0dc4052f4dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Plain Naturals offers a 5000mg CBD oil tincture in 30ml bottle for $99.99.<p>Consumers have gotten used to paying high prices for low amounts of cannabidiol. Plain Naturals is beginning to change that. There are myriad <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> showing that low doses of CBD (less than 50mg per day) are ineffective for many users. And many clinical <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> have shown effective dosages of 100 - 800mg per day to be effective for many conditions ranging from <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">anxiety and depression to Parkinson's disease and cancer</a>. And several <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> published by the National Institutes of Health have shown up to 1500mg per day to be consistently "well-tolerated" by adults. </p><p>Now it is always recommended to begin with a lower dosage and increase until an effective dose has been reached. But the advantage of starting with a higher potency CBD oil is that it is much easier to use less to start with and increase over time than to buy very low dose CBD oil and ultimately end up buying more and more stronger products. To start at 50mg per dose of a 5000mg oil, you would simply use ⅓ dropper or about 10-12 drops.</p>
The Truth About CBD Product Potency<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODMyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDc2NTg1N30.OAm3iOTO_pKZLXi7KdJ7n0DGOFMdOmIYuG4ArGooFC4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d657c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee016a81b29caa699b9185b64ce345d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
CBD gummies from Plain Naturals are 100% vegan and sugar free.<p>Unlike most CBD brands which can be much smoke and mirrors when it comes to stating their product quality, potency and consistency, PlainNaturals.com has <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/product-information" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">lab tests</a> conducted by FDA/DEA approved laboratories and publishes their product lab test <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/product-information" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noreferrer noopener">reports</a> right on their website so customers know the quality of the product they are buying. </p><p>In a recent <a href="https://crnusa.org/sites/default/files/RAC%2520attachments/CBD/CBD%2520RTC%2520Final.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">report</a> published by the Food and Drug Administration, FDA tested 147 cbd oils and cbd products. They found that of the 102 products that indicated a specific amount of CBD, 18 products (18%) contained less than 80% of the amount of CBD indicated; 46 products (45%) contained within 20% of the amount of CBD indicated; 38 products (37%) contained more than 120% of the amount of CBD indicated and of those 147 products, the FDA also found nearly half contained levels of THC above the limit of 3.1 mg per serving (or .3%). </p><p>So there's a 70% chance that a CBD consumer is not getting what they pay for and a 50% chance that the product they are buying may not be legal.</p><p>When you buy CBD oil online from <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noreferrer noopener">PlainNaturals.com</a>, you also get an unconditional money back guarantee and the manufacturer's warranty of the product quality and potency.</p>
CBD and Hemp Creams offer high-benefit, low-cost options to consumers.<p>Plain Naturals has taken the uncertainty out of the online CBD store process. By offering detailed laboratory reports on all their products and offering a money back guarantee, PlainNaturals.com online CBD store puts control back in the hands of the consumer when it comes to making their decision about where to buy CBD online.</p><p>In all 50 states and at the federal level it is 100% legal to <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-oils" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noreferrer noopener">buy CBD oil online</a> from an online CBD store provided that the product meets the standards set forth in federal regulations, containing not more than 0.3% THC and manufactured from industrial hemp.</p><p><a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">PlainNaturals.com</a> offers CBD (Cannabidiol) products like <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-oils" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD Oils</a>, <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-gummies--edibles" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD gummies and edibles</a>, <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd-isolate-powder" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD isolate powder</a>, wholesale CBD, <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/cbd--hemp-creams--lotions" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">CBD and hemp cream</a> and <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/shop/ols/categories/essential-oils--aromatherapy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">essential oils</a>. <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">PlainNaturals.com</a> continues to be a top supplier of wholesale CBD products to retailers and has also opened a retailer online portal for stores and CBD dealers to buy CBD in bulk.</p><p>EcoWatch readers can take advantage of a special offer from <a href="https://plainnaturals.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">PlainNaturals.com</a> and save an additional 25% off any purchase of $99 or more through 10/31/20 with coupon code <strong>ecowatch25</strong>.</p>
Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
- As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs ... ›
- Climate Crisis Gets 10 Minutes at VP Debate - EcoWatch ›
- Climate Crisis Gets Just 10 Minutes at End of Presidential Debate ... ›
By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.