mfp tom maertens

Tom Maertens

A major new U.N. report, based on 7,000 scientific studies, warns that the oceans are under severe strain from climate change. Warmer ocean waters and rising sea levels are fueling ever more powerful tropical cyclones and floods, killing fish stocks, coral reefs, sea birds, and sea grasses and threatening millions of people who live in low-lying coastal zones.

It has led to mass die-offs and algal blooms that threaten the survival of phytoplankton, the base of the food chain.

In 2019, the Pentagon identified climate change as an important and tangible threat to the U.S. military, citing sea level rise, wildfires, climate refugees, recurrent flooding, drought, desertification and thawing permafrost.

By the end of the century, 13 million Americans will need to move just because of rising sea levels. The state of Florida, which averages only six feet above sea level and has 40% of the riskiest coastal land in the country, is beginning the exodus, buying homes to bulldoze them and clear a path for rising seas before the neighborhoods get flooded out.

Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, has done more than 3,000 FEMA buyouts, and New Jersey, battered by Superstorm Sandy, has allocated $300 million to buy up coastal houses.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently cited extreme weather events, all exacerbated by climate change, to predict a housing crash worse than the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

The heaviest downpours now drop 67 percent more precipitation in the Northeast, 31 percent more in the Midwest and 15 percent more in the Great Plains than they did 50 years ago. Jefferson County Texas received as much as 43 inches of rain in 72 hours last month from Tropical Depression Imelda; Hurricane Harvey in 2017, dropped more than 50 inches in some places.

Longer and more severe droughts are increasing pressure on groundwater supplies. Seventeen countries around the world, affecting a quarter of humanity, are currently using almost all the water they have, according to new World Resources Institute data.

Niti Aayog, an Indian government think tank, said in a 2018 report that twenty-one Indian cities are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020, and 40% of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030.

As rural wells and dams dry up, Indian farmers in the state of Marathwada alone are committing suicide at the rate of almost 1,000 per year.

Such desperation is creating a flood of climate refugees; a study reported by Vice projects 1.5 billion migrants by 2050 with no place to go. More than 100,000 Guatemalans migrated just in 2018 because of food insecurity, according to NBC News.

Conflicts over water, especially in the Middle East and South Asia, will worsen. Even in the U.S., the Great Lakes Compact was created by the states/provinces around the Great Lakes to control proposed irrigation pipelines to the plains states which are faced with the eventual depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, their principal water supply, which is dropping 325 billion gallons per year.

The average temperature in U.S. cities will rise 9 degrees and close to 12 degress in Fairbanks by the end of the century, compared to 1960-1990, according to University of Maryland researchers.

Warmer winters mean that some diseases and insect pests like carpenter ants and pine beetles are not killed off by the cold, and that some fruit and nut trees don’t have the cooler winter they need to trigger pollen production in the spring.

The Trump administration is actively opposing efforts to combat climate change. It has repealed 84 environmental rules so far and decreed that the U.S. will leave the Paris Climate Accord.

Trump has directed the reversal of the mileage efficiency and emission standards that California negotiated with several car companies and revoked Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which regulated carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel plants.

He has promoted oil drilling on public lands previously designated as national monuments, and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and opened virtually all coastal waters to oil and gas drilling while repealing most drilling safety regulations, virtually assuring another Deepwater Horizon disaster.

A 2011 EPA study showed that the Clean Air Act amendment of 1990, which cost $65 billion to implement, will save $2 trillion over 30 years in health costs and prevent 160,000 early deaths and 13 million lost work days per year.

So why has Trump declared war on the environment?

Because he is obsessed with overturning Obama’s legacy, indebted to the fossil fuel lobby, and indifferent to the costs.

Tom Maertens held several science and technology positions in the U.S. government, including minister-counselor for Environment, Science, and Technology at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

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