About 70% of the buildings in Kalbarri were damaged and tens of thousands are without power by winds gusting over 100 miles per hour. Climate change, caused by humans' extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is making cyclonic storms more extreme by increasing air and ocean temperatures, which effectively supercharges the storms.
"You just thought, this is it. I would have thought that when we opened the door, that there would be nothing around us except that roof," Kalbarri resident Debbie Major told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We are a small town. Half of it has been flattened." Seroja devastated regions of Indonesia and Timor-Leste last week, where it triggered deadly flash floods and landslides.
#CycloneSeroja: homes & units before & after the cyclone hit #Kalbarri, 170kmh gusts causing major damage. #7NEWS https://t.co/WYFL2QOlwB— Paul Kadak (@Paul Kadak)1618186830.0
For a deeper dive:
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About 6,200 years ago, 41 people were killed and buried in a mass grave in what is now modern-day Croatia. According to Live Science, DNA analysis has now revealed that members of their own community may have murdered them, and some researchers suggest that a sudden population boom or shift in climate conditions could have prompted the mass murder.
The grave was discovered in 2007 in a small village in the hills of Potočani, Croatia. Heavy rains exposed a pit containing dozens of skeletons, Live Science reported. The mass grave was small, about 6.5-feet across and three-feet deep, with at least 41 bodies dumped together.
Archeologists first thought it was a modern grave from World War I or the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s, but no contemporary objects were found with the bones, according to Live Science. Radiocarbon dating of bones, soil and pottery fragments confirmed a burial date around 4200 B.C.E.
"This makes Potočani one of the first and earliest cases of systematic killing on a large scale in Europe proven by genetic data," said Mario Novak, the study's lead author and head of the Laboratory for Evolutionary Anthropology and Bioarchaeology at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb, Croatia.
Further inspection of the bones and DNA data revealed "random killing without any concern for age or sex," Novak told Live Science. Men, women and children were killed in relatively equal numbers. Many of the killing blows were strikes to the skull from behind, and there were no indications that the victims tried to defend themselves.
Genetic analysis also revealed that the victims were not a targeted family group, because 70 percent of the deceased were not closely related, Novak explained. But, because the victims' shared homogenic genetic ancestry that was almost identical to other contemporary populations from the region, Novak and his team were able to eliminate the hypothesis that the massacre was related to the arrival of new immigrants. Rather, they believe that the victims were a smaller part of the local, stable population.
These factors led the researchers to suspect a massacre.
"Basically, [all this] means that the perpetrators did not target a certain age or sex category within this community or even a certain family, as we could see in some similar prehistoric examples from continental Europe," Novak said. "The indiscriminate killing recorded in Potočani shows that this was a pre-planned act, most probably with a goal to completely exterminate this community without any consideration or remorse for their victims."
The Potočani mass grave is similar to others found in modern-day Germany and Austria dating to around 5000 B.C.E., Novak said. In total, scientists have found five or six similar cases from continental Europe so far.
According to Live Science, the "most likely explanation" for the Potočani killings and the older ones in Germany and Austria are prolonged climate changes in Central Europe that caused floods or droughts. These, along with unexpected population booms, possibly led to food shortages and violent competition for resources.
Novak's study called the reasons behind the upsurge of extreme mass violence and massacres during these eras "complex and multifactoral," and agreed that climate-induced drops in agricultural production most likely played a part.
"Human nature hasn't changed much (if at all) since those times," he told EcoWatch. "By studying such ancient massacres, we might try to get a glimpse into the psychology of these people, and maybe try to prevent similar events today," Novak told Live Science.
Novak also said it was obvious that the climate crisis profoundly impacted our distant ancestors as much as today's modern world. He warned, "If we cannot change ourselves and our attitude toward the environment drastically, I'm afraid soon the things will start resembling these ancient massacres, but on a more global scale."
- Scientists Develop Tool to Track Well-Being During Climate Crisis ... ›
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- Did the Climate Crisis Enable the Coronavirus Pandemic? - EcoWatch ›
Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
Yet another study has confirmed the unprecedented impacts of the climate crisis: Sea levels along the eastern U.S. are rising at their fastest rate in 2,000 years.
Researchers led by a team at the University of Rutgers studied sea level rise at six sites along the Atlantic coast. They found that the rate of change between 1900 and 2000 was more than double the average for the period between year 0 and 1800, Rutgers Today reported.
"The increasing influence of the global component is the most significant change in the sea-level budgets at all six sites," the study authors wrote.
The research, published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, focused on sea level sites in Connecticut, New York City, North Jersey, South Jersey (Leeds Point and Cape May Courthouse) and North Carolina. The scientists examined sea-level budgets, which are the totality of regional, local and global factors that influence sea level change. Examples of regional factors include land subsidence, or sinking, while local factors include groundwater withdrawal, Rutgers Today explained. The study is the first to examine these factors across a large time frame at the Atlantic sites. Most sea level budget studies have only focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, and only on the global level.
The research found that the dominant force driving sea level change had shifted. During the totality of the 2,000 year period, land subsidence caused by the retreating Laurentide ice sheet drove the change.
However, in the last century, global forces took over.
"Where it used to be this regional land sinking being the dominant force, now it's this global component, which is driven by the ice melt and warming of the oceans," Jennifer S. Walker, lead author and Rutgers University-New Brunswick postdoctoral associate, told CNN.
Since 1950, the global climate crisis has driven 36 to 50 percent of sea level rise at all six sites, the authors determined.
The findings aren't only important for understanding the scale of the current crisis, but also for helping policymakers deal with its consequences. Rising sea levels can increase sunny-day floods and make storms such as 2012's Hurricane Sandy more extreme.
"The impacts from a big storm like that are just going to be exacerbated on top of (the rising seas)," Walker told CNN.
That is why the study chose to study individual locations across a wide period.
"Having a thorough understanding of sea-level change at sites over the long-term is imperative for regional and local planning and responding to future sea-level rise," Walker told Rutgers Today. "By learning how different processes vary over time and contribute to sea-level change, we can more accurately estimate future contributions at specific sites."
- Study Projects Two Feet of Sea Level Rise by 2100 - EcoWatch ›
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By Jessica Corbett
The world's largest humanitarian network warned Wednesday that urgent international action is needed to address the rising risk of climate-related displacement, highlighting data that shows disasters such as storms, droughts, fires, and floods internally displaced more than 10 million people from September to February.
"In just the last six months, there have been 12.6 million people internally displaced around the world and over 80% of these forced displacements have been caused by disasters, most of which are triggered by climate and weather extremes," said Helen Brunt of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"Asia suffers much more than any other region from climate disaster-related displacements," noted Brunt, IFRC's Asia Pacific Migration and Displacement coordinator. "These upheavals are taking a terrible toll on some of the poorest communities already reeling from the economic and social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic."
The new report, Responding to Disasters and Displacement in a Changing Climate, draws data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. According to the IDMC, about 2.3 million displacements over the past six months are related to conflict compared with 10.3 million due to disasters.
MEDIA RELEASE: New report reveals 12.6 million people have been internally displaced around the world in the last s… https://t.co/4Y5c8OiwTq— IFRC Asia Pacific (@IFRC Asia Pacific)1615970193.0
The report details how the IFRC has responded to various humanitarian needs across Asia, with case studies about assisting communities affected by drought in Afghanistan; seasonal cyclones and monsoon rains, which lead to flooding and landslides, in Bangladesh; and a dzud, a term for extreme winter conditions that cause mass livestock loss, in Mongolia.
The network also dedicates a section to the Philippine Red Cross's efforts to adopt a strategic approach to housing, land, and property rights for displaced communities.
"We are seeing an alarming trend of people displaced by more extreme weather events such as Typhoon Goni, the world's most ferocious storm last year, that smashed into the Philippines," said Brunt. "Three storms hit the Philippines in as many weeks, leaving over three million people destitute."
More broadly, she added, "We need greater action and urgent investment to reduce internal displacement caused by the rising risk of disasters. Investing much more in local organizations and first responders is critical so they have the resources needed to protect lives, homes, and their communities."
The report includes eight overall recommendations:
- Investment in and focus on local actors and local responders;
- Meaningful community engagement and accountability;
- A protection, gender and inclusion (PGI)-informed approach and response;
- Strengthening national and branch level internal systems and capabilities;
- Monitoring population movements in the context of both slow and sudden onset disasters;
- Community-led assessments;
- Coordinating and promoting the centrality of durable solutions to displacement; and
- Humanitarian diplomacy, and multi-stakeholder partnerships and coordination.
"Things are getting worse as climate change aggravates existing factors like poverty, conflict, and political instability," Brunt told Reuters. "The compounded impact makes recovery longer and more difficult: people barely have time to recover and they're slammed with another disaster."
While the IFRC's report focuses on internal displacement — meaning individuals who remain within their home countries — recent climate-related disasters have also generated calls for just and updated policies related to refugees.
Last month, a report from Kayly Ober, senior advocate and program manager for the Climate Displacement Program at Refugees International, provided the Biden administration with a policy roadmap, declaring that "the United States has a moral and practical responsibility to lead on issues of climate change, migration, and displacement."
"Yes, we should invest in climate change adaptation and resilience measures, because it enables people to stay in place if they would like to," Ober told Common Dreams. "But we also need to understand that people are already on the move and will continue to be on the move, especially as climate change impacts increase in intensity and frequency."
An analysis released last year by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics & Peace found that as the global population climbs toward 10 billion by 2050, ecological disasters and armed conflict could forcibly displace about 10% of humanity.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Annapolis, Maryland, is suing 26 oil and gas companies for deceiving the public about their products' role in causing climate change. The city is among two dozen state and local governments to file such a lawsuit.
"The companies worked to deceive people of the danger, hiding their knowledge and engaging in an intentional campaign to mislead the public about the science proving the growing danger posed by fossil fuels," Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley told reporters.
The city seeks to force the companies to help cover the mounting costs of climate change, including severe flooding that disproportionately harms communities of color. "We're looking at a price tag of almost $100 million," Jacqueline Guild, deputy city manager for resilience and sustainability, told reporters. "And that's just the tip of the melting iceberg, if you will."
The Annapolis lawsuit comes as state and local plaintiffs and fossil fuel industry defendants await a Supreme Court decision on BP PLC v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, which could have major implications for states' and municipalities' lawsuits.
For a deeper dive:
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By Emily Ury
Trekking out to my research sites near North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, I slog through knee-deep water on a section of trail that is completely submerged. Permanent flooding has become commonplace on this low-lying peninsula, nestled behind North Carolina's Outer Banks. The trees growing in the water are small and stunted. Many are dead.
Throughout coastal North Carolina, evidence of forest die-off is everywhere. Nearly every roadside ditch I pass while driving around the region is lined with dead or dying trees.
As an ecologist studying wetland response to sea level rise, I know this flooding is evidence that climate change is altering landscapes along the Atlantic coast. It's emblematic of environmental changes that also threaten wildlife, ecosystems, and local farms and forestry businesses.
Like all living organisms, trees die. But what is happening here is not normal. Large patches of trees are dying simultaneously, and saplings aren't growing to take their place. And it's not just a local issue: Seawater is raising salt levels in coastal woodlands along the entire Atlantic Coastal Plain, from Maine to Florida. Huge swaths of contiguous forest are dying. They're now known in the scientific community as "ghost forests."
Deer photographed by a remote camera in a climate change-altered forest in North Carolina. Emily Ury / CC BY-ND
The Insidious Role of Salt
Sea level rise driven by climate change is making wetlands wetter in many parts of the world. It's also making them saltier.
In 2016 I began working in a forested North Carolina wetland to study the effect of salt on its plants and soils. Every couple of months, I suit up in heavy rubber waders and a mesh shirt for protection from biting insects, and haul over 100 pounds of salt and other equipment out along the flooded trail to my research site. We are salting an area about the size of a tennis court, seeking to mimic the effects of sea level rise.
After two years of effort, the salt didn't seem to be affecting the plants or soil processes that we were monitoring. I realized that instead of waiting around for our experimental salt to slowly kill these trees, the question I needed to answer was how many trees had already died, and how much more wetland area was vulnerable. To find answers, I had to go to sites where the trees were already dead.
Rising seas are inundating North Carolina's coast, and saltwater is seeping into wetland soils. Salts move through groundwater during phases when freshwater is depleted, such as during droughts. Saltwater also moves through canals and ditches, penetrating inland with help from wind and high tides. Dead trees with pale trunks, devoid of leaves and limbs, are a telltale sign of high salt levels in the soil. A 2019 report called them "wooden tombstones."
As the trees die, more salt-tolerant shrubs and grasses move in to take their place. In a newly published study that I coauthored with Emily Bernhardt and Justin Wright at Duke University and Xi Yang at the University of Virginia, we show that in North Carolina this shift has been dramatic.
The state's coastal region has suffered a rapid and widespread loss of forest, with cascading impacts on wildlife, including the endangered red wolf and red-cockaded woodpecker. Wetland forests sequester and store large quantities of carbon, so forest die-offs also contribute to further climate change.
Researcher Emily Ury measuring soil salinity in a ghost forest. Emily Bernhardt / CC BY-ND
Assessing Ghost Forests From Space
To understand where and how quickly these forests are changing, I needed a bird's-eye perspective. This perspective comes from satellites like NASA's Earth Observing System, which are important sources of scientific and environmental data.
Since 1972, Landsat satellites, jointly operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, have captured continuous images of Earth's land surface that reveal both natural and human-induced change. We used Landsat images to quantify changes in coastal vegetation since 1984 and referenced high-resolution Google Earth images to spot ghost forests. Computer analysis helped identify similar patches of dead trees across the entire landscape.
A 2016 Landsat8 image of the Albemarle Pamlico Peninsula in coastal North Carolina. USGS
Google Earth image of a healthy forest on the right and a ghost forest with many dead trees on the left. Emily Ury
The results were shocking. We found that more than 10% of forested wetland within the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was lost over the past 35 years. This is federally protected land, with no other human activity that could be killing off the forest.
Rapid sea level rise seems to be outpacing the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter, saltier conditions. Extreme weather events, fueled by climate change, are causing further damage from heavy storms, more frequent hurricanes and drought.
We found that the largest annual loss of forest cover within our study area occurred in 2012, following a period of extreme drought, forest fires and storm surges from Hurricane Irene in August 2011. This triple whammy seemed to have been a tipping point that caused mass tree die-offs across the region.
Should Scientists Fight the Transition or Assist It?
As global sea levels continue to rise, coastal woodlands from the Gulf of Mexico to the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere around the world could also suffer major losses from saltwater intrusion. Many people in the conservation community are rethinking land management approaches and exploring more adaptive strategies, such as facilitating forests' inevitable transition into salt marshes or other coastal landscapes.
For example, in North Carolina the Nature Conservancy is carrying out some adaptive management approaches, such as creating "living shorelines" made from plants, sand and rock to provide natural buffering from storm surges.
A more radical approach would be to introduce marsh plants that are salt-tolerant in threatened zones. This strategy is controversial because it goes against the desire to try to preserve ecosystems exactly as they are.
But if forests are dying anyway, having a salt marsh is a far better outcome than allowing a wetland to be reduced to open water. While open water isn't inherently bad, it does not provide the many ecological benefits that a salt marsh affords. Proactive management may prolong the lifespan of coastal wetlands, enabling them to continue storing carbon, providing habitat, enhancing water quality and protecting productive farm and forest land in coastal regions.
Emily Ury is a Ph.D. candidate in Duke University's Program in Ecology.
Disclosure statement: Emily Ury received funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the North Carolina Sea Grant. Additional support for this project came from the National Science Foundation.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Rishika Pardikar
Search operations are still underway to find those declared missing following the Uttarakhand disaster on 7 February 2021.
"As of now [18 March], we have found 74 bodies and 130 people are still missing," said Swati S. Bhadauria, district magistrate in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India. Chamoli is the district where a hanging, ice-capped rock broke off from a glacier and fell into a meltwater- and debris-formed lake below. The lake subsequently breached, leading to heavy flooding downstream.
The disaster is attributed to both development policies in the Himalayas and climate change. And as is common with climate-linked disasters, the most vulnerable sections of society suffered the most devastating consequences. Among the most vulnerable in Chamoli are its population of migrant construction workers from states across India.
Of the 204 people dead or missing, only 77 are from Uttarakhand, and "only 11 were not workers of the two dam companies," Bhadauria noted. The two dams referred to are the 13.2-megawatt Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project and the 520-megawatt Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Plant, which has been under construction since 2005. The flash floods in Chamoli first broke through the Rishiganga project and then, along with debris accumulated there, broke through the Tapovan Vishnugad project 5–6 kilometers downstream.
"Both local people and others from Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh…from all over India work on these two [hydroelectric] projects," said Atul Sati, a Chamoli-based social activist with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.
Sati noted that the local community suspects the number of casualties from the Uttarakhand disaster may be higher than reported because not all the projects' migrant workers—including those from bordering countries like Nepal—have been accounted for by the construction companies and their subcontractors.
The National Thermal Power Corporation is the state-owned utility that owns the Tapovan Vishnugad project. "NTPC has given building contracts to some companies," Sati explained. "These companies have given subcontracts to other companies. What locals are saying is that there are more [than 204] who are missing. They say there were [migrant] workers from Nepal."
NTPC and the Kundan Group (the corporate owner of the Rishiganga project) have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
No Early-Warning System
"NTPC did not have a proper early-warning system," said Mritunjay Kumar, an employee with the government of the east Indian state of Bihar. Kumar's bother, Manish Kumar, was a migrant worker employed with Om Infra Ltd., an NTPC subcontractor. On the day of the disaster, Manish was working in one of the silt flushing tunnels of the Tapovan project and lost his life in the flooding.
Mritunjay Kumar noted that it "would have taken time" for the floodwater and debris to flow from the meltwater lake to the Rishiganga project and then to the Tapovan project. "Even if workers knew 5 minutes in advance," he said, "lives could have been saved."
An advance notice "would have given [Tapovan] workers at least 5–6 critical minutes," agreed Hridayesh Joshi, an environmental journalist from Uttarakhand who reported from Chamoli after the disaster. "Many people made videos; they shouted and alerted people on site. If there was a robust early-warning system, many more lives could have been saved…even if not all, at least some would have escaped."
"It is true that this was an environmental, climate change driven disaster. But NTPC had not taken any measures to save their workers from such disasters," Kumar said. "They [NTPC] hadn't even installed emergency exits for tunnel workers. The only proper exit was a road which faces the river. If NTPC had installed a few temporary iron staircases, many people could have climbed out."
Kumar noted that the Tapovan project has been under construction since before the 2013 Kedarnath disaster, in which more than 5,000 people lost their lives as rainfall-driven floods ravaged northern India. "If they [NTPC] knew that such disasters will happen, why didn't they install early-warning systems?" Kumar asked. "Scientists have been warning about climate change and [dam and road] constructions in the Himalayas from a very long time. Obviously, NTPC was aware."
This story originally appeared in Eos and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
The study, published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change on Thursday, is the first to consider emissions other than carbon dioxide, such as methane from floods and cattle, and black carbon from forest-clearing fires.
"Cutting the forest is interfering with its carbon uptake; that's a problem," Kristofer Covey, lead author and Skidmore environmental studies professor, told National Geographic. "But when you start to look at these other factors alongside CO2, it gets really hard to see how the net effect isn't that the Amazon as a whole is really warming global climate."
The Amazon rainforest has long been touted as a carbon sink and natural ally in the fight against the climate crisis. However, recent studies have warned that humanity may lose the rainforest's help with continued deforestation. A study published in January found that forests worldwide still absorb 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, but rainforests in Southeast Asia have now become net emitters of carbon dioxide because of land use changes, EcoWatch reported at the time.
The Brazilian Amazon was also a net emitter of carbon dioxide between 2001 and 2019, the study authors found, even though the Amazon as a whole remained a carbon sink. However, a 2020 study warned that could change in the next 15 years.
All of these studies were limited because they focused exclusively on carbon dioxide emissions.
"As important as carbon is in the Amazon, it's not the only thing that's going on," Tom Lovejoy, study coauthor and senior fellow in biodiversity with the United Nations Foundation, told National Geographic. "The only surprise, if you can call it that, is how much more there is when you add it all up."
To address this gap, more than 30 scientists teamed up to analyze the existing data of "more." They found that it included emissions from the following sources:
- Black carbon: This is released from fires, such as the 2019 Amazon blazes that destroyed an area roughly the size of New Jersey. Soot particles from black carbon absorb sunlight and increase warming.
- Nitrous Oxide: This is naturally produced by forests, but gas emissions increase when wetlands dry and logging compacts the soil.
- Methane: This is also released naturally by rainforests from microbes in wet soil, which gets filtered into the atmosphere by trees. In the past, the Amazon's carbon storage abilities counteracted its methane emissions. Human activity is now limiting the forest's ability to store carbon as increased flooding, dam building and cattle grazing also release methane.
"We're taking away all the ability for the Amazon to absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere while also causing it to release other greenhouse gases," CNN Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin explained.
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A rising tide threatened to flood Venice, Italy, on Saturday, providing the first test for the city's long-awaited flood barrier. The tide peaked around four feet, potentially affecting more than one-third of the city, but controversial underwater barriers contained the rising waters, the AP reported.
Popular tourist attraction St. Mark's Square usually floods at three feet, but remained mostly dry with the exception of some puddles, CNN reported.
This is due to a new flood barrier dubbed MOSE, short for Electromagnetic Experimental Module in English. The system comprises 78 barriers submerged where the Adriatic Sea meets the Venetian lagoon, which form a dam during high tides, CNN reported.
"I'd heard the [warning] sirens in the morning but I didn't raise any of my furniture this time because the barrier lifted on the last test, and I had faith that it would work," Sebastian Fagarazzi, co-founder of social initiative Venezia Autentica, told CNN. "This is historic."
The MOSE system has been in development since 1984, but corruption, ballooning costs and concerns from environmental groups created delays, The New York Times reported.
"We found a difficult situation and slowly, slowly we've been able to resolve things," Giuseppe Fiengo, one of the commissioners who have overseen the project since 2014, told The New York Times. "The important thing is that today, for the first time, with high water, Venice didn't flood."
The timing of the successful test is a welcome relief to Venetians who endured the city's worst flooding in 53 years in November 2019 and who see the climate crisis as a mounting threat that will jeopardize the survival of the city, reported Reuters.
Despite MOSE's success on Saturday, there is still infrastructure work to be completed on the barriers. The plan is for the barriers to rise when the tide passes 3.6 feet above normal levels. However, the current threshold is 4.2 feet until the MOSE system is finished, according to the AP.
Saturday's tide levels were a fraction of what Venice experienced last year when the tide rose six feet above sea level. While engineers say the barrier will protect the city from tides up to 10 feet high, the MOSE system has not yet been tested in those conditions, The New York Times reported.
Some noted that rising sea levels caused by the climate crisis might force the barriers to stay up half the year, which would harm shipping channels and turn the Venetian lagoon into a swamp.
"With climate change, there's a chance that the floodgates could be employed 150-180 days a year, becoming an almost fixed barrier and severing the lagoon's relation to the sea," Cristiano Gasparetto, an architect and former provincial official who has long opposed the project, told The New York Times. "If the lagoon is cut off from the sea for long periods, it dies, because the natural exchange of waters stops, and all of its organic life risks decaying," he added. "If the lagoon dies, Venice dies."
The mayor, however, celebrated a device that may bring relief to Venice.
"Today, everything is dry. We stopped the sea," mayor Luigi Brugnaro said according to Reuters. "Lots of bad things have happened here, but now something wonderful has happened."
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As extreme storms grow more common, the Ohio River is expected to spill over its banks more often and flood nearby areas.
But rather than close down during a flood, a new park in southern Indiana will make the best of high water.
"Our pivot is, OK, lean into climate change, lean into a wetter landscape," says Scott Martin of the nonprofit River Heritage Conservancy. "We want to be the park that people visit in flood."
River Heritage Conservancy is working to transform 600 acres along the Ohio River into connected green spaces that will be known as Origin Park.
During dry weather, people will be able to walk and bike along the river's edge. But Martin says that during a flood, "you now go kayaking and paddleboard through these wet woods. Above you will be a series of elevated pathways. Those pathways will still allow bikers to move through and walkers. But suddenly they will be over on top of water that will have paddlers in it."
Martin's group has already raised $10 million for the project. And about 300 acres have been acquired or set aside.
The entire park will take about 20 years to complete, but sections will be done sooner. When finished, it will connect people with their changing natural environment for generations to come.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Unfortunately, many of the people living in those properties have no idea that their homes are at risk until the floodwaters rise.
I am a sociologist who works on disaster vulnerability. In a new study, I looked at the makeup of communities in Houston that aren't in the 100-year flood zone, but that still flood. What I found tells a story of racial disparities in the city. Research in other cities has shown similar flooding problems in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Poor stormwater infrastructure, expanding urbanization and limited flood mitigation efforts are a few of the reasons why.
Flooding Outside the Zones
About 15 million Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.
In Greater Houston, however, 47% of claims made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now recommends that every household in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.
New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.
One of those models, from the First Street Foundation, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other researchers find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss
Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.
First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.
Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect were from 1983. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the majority of maps are older.
Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception research backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.
Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.
As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming more common and severe. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of once every 5.5 years. So far, FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having on extreme weather and sea level rise.
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones
So, who is at risk?
Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.
In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.
With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.
Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. In Baltimore and Chicago, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.
What Can Be Done About It
Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.
For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for climate change and present ratings on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is exploring rating systems. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently called for a new generation of flood maps that takes climate change into account.
Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where 386 new square miles of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also impact older neighborhoods downhill during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.
Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from growing after the unequal impacts of disasters.
Kevin T. Smiley is an Assistant Professor of Sociology, Louisiana State University.
Disclosure statement: Kevin T. Smiley receives funding from an Early-Career Fellowship from Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and is supported as a Fellow in the Enabling Program for the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers as part of the National Science Foundation's Humans, Disasters, and the Built Environment program.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Nuclear power is a source of low-carbon electricity, but producing it creates dangerous radioactive waste that needs to be stored safely and permanently.
Recent research suggests that as seas rise, some nuclear waste storage facilities are at risk of flooding or storm damage.
"We really focused in to say, 'OK, well, how many plants might actually be subject to these risks?'" says Sarah Jordaan of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Her team looked at 13 facilities along the U.S. coast.
They found that if seas rise about six feet – which is possible by the end of the century – more than half of the waste storage sites would be directly along the water's edge or even surrounded by water.
So she says it's critical to anticipate these long-term vulnerabilities and take action.
"There are certainly ways that those risks can be managed now," Jordaan says.
For example, after five years, spent fuel can be moved to dry casks. This is a safer long-term storage method than the cooling pools where a lot of spent fuel is currently stored.
So Jordaan says it's critical for policymakers to understand the risks at nuclear facilities and create regulations and policies to ensure greater safety.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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