As the weather grows more severe, and its damages more expensive and fatal, current weather predictions fall short in providing reliable information on Earth's rapidly changing systems.
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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" data-width="1244" data-height="1244" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Matt Casale
There were many lessons to be learned from Texas' prolonged periods of lost power during its cold snap, which saw temperatures drop into the single digits. But one many people may not recognize is that electric vehicles, or EVs, can be part of a smart resiliency plan — not only in the case of outages triggered by the cold but in other scenarios caused by extreme weather events, from fire-related blackouts in California to hurricane-hit power losses in Puerto Rico.
A car driving in the snow in Dallas, Feb. 2021. Matthew Rader / CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Experts recognize that electric vehicles are a central climate solution for their role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But EVs are also essentially batteries on wheels. You can store energy in those batteries, and if EVs are equipped with something called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle-to-grid" target="_blank">vehicle-to-grid</a> or vehicle-to-building technology, they can also be used to keep the lights on in emergencies. The technology allows the energy being stored in an EV battery to be pushed back into the grid or into buildings to provide power.</p><p>There are hurdles: The technology is still <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/vehicle-grid-technology-revving" target="_blank">developing</a>, the vast majority of EVs currently on the road do not have this capability, and utilities would need regulatory approval before bringing it to scale. But done right it could be a great opportunity.</p><p>Electric car batteries can hold approximately <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/11/how-california-can-use-electric-vehicles-keep-lights" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">60 kilowatt hours (kWh)</a> of energy, enough to provide back-up power to an average U.S. household for two days. Larger electric vehicles like buses and trucks have even bigger batteries and can provide more power. The American company Proterra produces electric buses that can store <a href="https://www.proterra.com/press-release/proterra-launches-zx5-electric-bus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 660 kWh of energy</a>. Electric <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/electric-trash-trucks-are-coming-quietly-to-your-town-11602098620#:~:text=Electric%20trash%20truck%20love%20is%20in%20the%20air.&text=A's%20program%20to%20reduce%20carbon,being%20primarily%20electric%20by%202023." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">garbage trucks</a> and even <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/business/electric-semi-trucks-big-rigs.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big-rigs</a>, with bigger batteries, are becoming a reality too.</p>
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann / CC BY 2.0<p>If equipped with vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-building technology, those cars, buses and trucks could prove invaluable during future blackouts. People could rely on their cars to power their houses. Municipalities, transit agencies and school districts could send out their fleets to the areas most in need. We could power homes, shelters and emergency response centers — and could keep people warm, healthy and comfortable until power could be restored.</p><p>But to add this great resiliency tool to our arsenal in times of extreme weather, we must significantly increase the number of EVs on the road. In 2019 electric cars accounted for only about <a href="https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/articles/fotw-1136-june-1-2020-plug-vehicle-sales-accounted-about-2-all-light-duty" target="_blank">2%</a> of all light-duty vehicle sales in the country. Electric buses and trucks are becoming more common in the United States, but still only represent a tiny fraction of the fleet. As it stands now, the EVs currently on the road, even if equipped with vehicle-to-grid technology, would do little to help a broad swath of the population in need of power.</p>
A line of electric cars at charging stations. Andrew Bone / CC BY 2.0
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By Chris Fogwill, Alan Hogg, Chris Turney and Zoë Thomas
The world experienced a few centuries of apocalyptic conditions 42,000 years ago, triggered by a reversal of Earth's magnetic poles combined with changes in the Sun's behavior. That's the key finding of our new multidisciplinary study, published in Science.
An ancient kauri tree log from Ngāwhā, New Zealand. Nelson Parker, author provided
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By Jessica Corbett
While millions of Texans on Monday continued living without safe drinking water and many faced storm damage and massive electricity bills, youth leaders with the Sunrise Movement rallied at the state capitol in Austin, using the current conditions across the Lone Star State to bolster their demand for a Green New Deal.
<div id="33fe2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="20d635a68d8c6c0e2ee0e9ba14e3bf69"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363901146478219266" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">[email protected] at the Texas Capitol this morning to confront state and country leaders about last week’s snow storm… https://t.co/kokBBRZoNA</div> — Hannah Falcon (@Hannah Falcon)<a href="https://twitter.com/hannahfalcon_/statuses/1363901146478219266">1614014348.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="5f790" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="94bf16b155a9b5ee079ce2b230981e54"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363909975597285382" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">And the state has the fucking gall right now to put troopers with ARs out on the capitol grounds to intimidate us.… https://t.co/WFUZcKDcKl</div> — EmGe (@EmGe)<a href="https://twitter.com/em_magining/statuses/1363909975597285382">1614016453.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="580d0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87ca15ef9a8a31b909d0919db56fa761"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1362528807073234948" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">We know that when our lights go out, there are neighborhoods like @GovAbbott’s whose don’t. The rest of us? We com… https://t.co/EwTZ4kA2Zh</div> — Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)<a href="https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/statuses/1362528807073234948">1613687156.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="8bcef" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c7186a458462e9d1332cd150cf23d73e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363902295344226304" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Ted Cruz says he went to Mexico to be a "good parent." That was BS, as we all know. The way to be a good parent (or… https://t.co/uWZWdCgsbe</div> — Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)<a href="https://twitter.com/NaomiAKlein/statuses/1363902295344226304">1614014621.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Klein—author of <a href="https://inthesetimes.com/article/this-changes-everything-naomi-klein-lessons" target="_blank"><em>This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate</em></a> and other books—<a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/02/22/republicans-fear-green-new-deal-argues-naomi-klein-because-its-viable-alternative" target="_blank">argued</a> in a Sunday column for the <em>New York Times</em> that Republicans "fear" the Green New Deal because it offers a viable alternative to "the collapse of a 40-year experiment in free-market fundamentalism" that Texans are now enduring.</p><p>"The horrors currently unfolding in Texas expose both the reality of the climate crisis and the extreme vulnerability of fossil fuel infrastructure in the face of that crisis," Klein wrote. "So of course the Green New Deal finds itself under fierce attack. Because for the first time in a long time, Republicans face the very thing that they claim to revere but never actually wanted: competition—in the battle of ideas."</p>
<div id="d2af4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="07057c3270fc8f809f160c8a4aeff329"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363531126426398721" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">I wrote about why Texas Republicans are terrified of the #GreenNewDeal for @nytimes. Their ideas are no longer "l… https://t.co/RWDDJhCeua</div> — Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)<a href="https://twitter.com/NaomiAKlein/statuses/1363531126426398721">1613926128.0</a></blockquote></div><p> In a statement last week <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/02/17/demanding-gov-abbotts-resignation-sunrise-movement-says-texas-crisis-shows-urgent" target="_blank">calling on</a> Abbott to resign over his handling of the storm and his lies about the power outages on <em>Fox News</em>, Sunrise digital director Paris Moran declared that "we deserve a government that addresses our basic needs and protects all of us in moments of crisis."</p><p>"Despite the lies you'll hear from Gov. Abbott on <em>Fox News</em>, that's truly what the Green New Deal is all about," said Moran, whose family in Texas lost electricity, had food go bad, and lacked consistent running water. "We must come together and rebuild an era of prosperity through the Decade of the Green New Deal."</p>
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By Tara Lohan
A hailstorm in South Texas. Tornadoes in Tennessee. Wildfires across the West. A barrage of Gulf Coast hurricanes. Those are among the record 22 weather and climate disasters that each topped $1 billion in damages last year in the United States.
A manatee stranded by Hurricane Irma in Melbourne, Florida. Bill Greer, FWC / CC BY-ND 2.0<p>"Some of the negative responses we found were quite concerning, including more than 100 cases of dramatic population declines and 31 cases of local population extinction following an extreme event," says Maxwell. "Populations of critically endangered bird species in Hawai'i, such as the palia, have been annihilated due to drought, and populations of lizard species have been wiped out due to cyclones in the Bahamas."</p><p>Plant species, the researchers found, had the highest number of negative responses to extreme events, followed by reptiles and amphibians.</p><p>"Collectively, the studies in our review suggest that extreme weather and climate events have profound implications for species and ecosystem management," the researchers concluded.</p>
Damage in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian. Seaman Erik Villa Rodriguez / U.S. Coast Guard
Kangaroo Island, the only habitat of the endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart, after the 2019-2020 Australia wildfires. StephenMitchell / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Key deer after Hurricane Irene. Carol Lyn Parrish /CC BY-ND 2.0
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By Brett Wilkins
Texas oil refineries released hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollutants including benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide into the air as they scrambled to shut down during last week's deadly winter storm, Reuters reported Sunday.
Residents of Southwest Louisiana continue to endure the turmoil set off by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, and rooted in systemic inequities and exacerbated by the fossil fuel industry, Southerly reports.
As unusually cold temperatures descended on the south and central U.S. this week, it wasn't only humans who struggled to adjust.
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While Texans were burning their furniture and children's toys for warmth, other wider-ranging impacts of the energy crisis precipitated by Arctic temperatures across the U.S. will be felt for years.
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By Michael Svoboda
The COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed again a fundamental truth about the Anthropocene: When disaster strikes, the vulnerable take the hardest punches. Communities of color have suffered much higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and mortality, both because they are disproportionately represented in frontline service positions and because their access to routine healthcare is more limited.
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By Theodore J. Kury
Americans often take electricity for granted – until the lights go out. The recent cold wave and storm in Texas have placed considerable focus on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, the nonprofit corporation that manages the flow of electricity to more than 26 million Texans. Together, ERCOT and similar organizations manage about 60% of the U.S. power supply.
In the Southeast, Southwest and Northwest U.S., traditional utilities generate electricity and deliver it to customers. Other regions, including Texas, have moved to competitive power markets run by Independent System Operators, or ISOs. FERC