As we know, all too well, the U.S. has been hit very hard by weather disasters over the past year. A record ten weather disasters around the country have each caused at least $1 billion in damages. For example, while damages and deaths from Hurricane Irene are still being tallied, the estimates are running more than $7 billion with close to 50 deaths from Vermont to North Carolina. There will be more hurricanes since the “season” has just started.
We have also seen unparalleled floodings across the country. The Missouri and Souris Rivers overflowed in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, resulting in over $2 billion in damages. During the spring and summer, Mississippi River flooding resulted in near $4 billion in damages as the river flooded from Tennessee south, and spillways were opened to flood rural areas to save cities along the river.
Drought and heat waves have hit Texas, Oklahoma and neighboring states very hard, with damages already exceeding the $5 billion mark. Unfortunately, this disaster is far from over. The damage totals don’t take into account the wildfires that have devastated many states, especially Texas. The wildfires in Texas in late August and early September destroyed over 2,000 homes and killed a number of people.
Tornadoes that hit the Midwest and Southeast in May killed 177 and resulted in more than $7 billion in losses. One tornado alone killed more than 140 people in Joplin, Mo., making it the deadliest single twister since records were started in 1950. Tornadoes also hit hard in the Ohio Valley. The City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was hit hard in April resulting in 32 deaths and more than $9 billion in damages.
In mid-April, tornadoes hit from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania resulting in $2 billion in damage and 38 deaths, mostly in North Carolina. There was an outbreak of 59 tornadoes in the Midwest and Northeast in early April. The damages were $2.2 billion. Fortunately, there were no deaths. Outbreak of 46 tornadoes in Central and Southern states on April 4-5, resulted in nine deaths and $2.3 billion in damages.
Tropical storm Lee, while not a hurricane, caused a great deal of damage all the way from Texas to Florida and on up the East Coast to North Carolina. The damage from Lee will be huge. A blizzard stretching from late January until after Groundhog Day, February 2nd, paralyzed cities from Chicago to the Northeast. The toll was 36 deaths and more than $2 billion in damages.
I wonder how any thinking person can say that we are not witnessing the effects of climate change that has occurred and continues around the world, and certainly in the U.S. Our political leaders on the national level, with few exceptions, have sat on their collective hands and let the powerful oil and gas industry dictate national policy on environmental issues and especially the policy that deals with the causes of climate change. Many in the scientific community have been warning us for years, but those warnings have fallen on deaf ears. We had best wake up and deal with the most serious environmental issue facing this country, as well as other parts of the world. Instead of further weakening our already weak regulation of the oil and gas industry in the U.S., regulation must be made stronger and enforcement more effective. There must be a similar effort in other countries, all of whom have a duty and obligation to get actively involved, and that has to happen if we are to survive long-term.
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