Hurricane Harvey Is a Horrible Reminder of the Cost We Pay for Climate Denial
By Ryan Schleeter
The equivalent of half of Houston's annual average rainfall has fallen in the last 48 hours; 80,000 households are without electricity; Houston emergency services have received almost 6,000 urgent appeals for rescues; 54 Texas counties have been declared state disaster areas; thousands of people are displaced or in shelters; five people have died.
And climate change is making it all worse.
This is Houston. I-45 is flooded. https://t.co/X0mSeQTT8c— Suvro Banerji (@Suvro Banerji)1503838328.0
While we cannot say definitively that climate change caused Hurricane Harvey, science tells us with confidence that it has increased the impact of the flooding and heightened the intensity of the storm.
But this shouldn't come as a surprise. For many years, scientists have warned that our continued reliance on fossil fuels will lead to bigger and more devastating storms.
It's also abundantly clear that coastal Texas and the wider Gulf region (which has seen this kind of event before), are on the frontlines of sea level rise and extreme weather heightened by climate change. And Houston in particular—with its slate of oil, gas, and chemical refineries owned by companies like Exxon and Shell—faces the additional risk of toxic petrochemical chemical spills into nearby communities.
We expect to see flares, or "upsets" like this one at #TX PetroChemical (TPC) during #HurricaneHarvery #Harvey… https://t.co/1D6Tvrzr3I— t.e.j.a.s. (@t.e.j.a.s.)1503792798.0
When disasters like Harvey strike, those standing in the way of climate action must answer to the victims.
That means we're looking at you, Greg Abbott. The Texas governor has been on record for years denying the science of climate change, stating that scientists disagree (they don't) and that their findings "need to continue to be investigated" (not really). He also sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Plan, President Obama's initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
There's also Ted Cruz, the Texas senator so committed to discrediting climate science he once convened a Senate hearing on the issue and filled his panel with "scientists" paid by the fossil fuel industry.
And we can't forget Lamar Smith, who represents Texas's 21st congressional district. As chairman of the House Science Committee, he subpoenaed eight environmental groups—including Greenpeace—for calling on officials to investigate Exxon's history of climate denial.
But this goes beyond Texas—we're also looking at you, Donald Trump. Not only is Trump a unapologetic climate denier who has spent his time in office dismantling every climate protection activists have won in recent years, he also rolled back an Obama-era rule that required new infrastructure to be built with climate resiliency in mind (flood protection, specifically).
How you can support the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
In the long run, helping those impacted by extreme weather events means holding big polluters—like Exxon—and climate deniers—like Trump, Cruz, Abbot and Smith—accountable. Only a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy can soften the impact of the next superstorm to come our way.
But right now, folks on the ground need your immediate support as they deal with power outages, continued flooding, and overcrowded shelters.
Concerned about #HarveyRelief? Want to give to #AJustHarveyRecovery? Start here: https://t.co/wDpTQSuWC3 (plans are in the works for more)— BridgeTheGulf (@BridgeTheGulf)1503948392.0
Giving money? Consider donating to a local relief effort. Want to give supplies? There are supply drives for items like water and basic hygiene products across Louisiana and the Gulf. Looking for other ways to donate your time? Use this guide from our friends at Another Gulf Is Possible to find more ways you can support.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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