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Denying Hurricane Harvey’s climate links only worsens future suffering

Posted on 5 September 2017 by dana1981

Human-caused climate change amplified the damages and suffering associated with Hurricane Harvey in several different ways. First, sea level rise caused by global warming increased the storm surge and therefore the coastal inundation and flooding from the storm. Second, the warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which intensifies extreme precipitation events like the record-shattering rainfall associated with Harvey. Third, warmer ocean waters essentially act as hurricane fuel, which may have made Harvey more intense than it would otherwise have been.

There are other possible human factors at play about which we have less certainty. For example, it’s possible that Harvey stalled off the coast of Texasbecause of changes in atmospheric circulation patterns associated with human-caused global warming. As climate scientist Michael Mann notes, his research has shown that these sorts of stationary summer weather patterns tend to happen more often in a hotter world, but we can’t yet say if that happened in Harvey’s case.

Other human activities also worsened Harvey’s impacts. For example, Houston suffers from urban sprawl, covering a larger area (nearly 600 square miles) than the cities of Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Manhattan, and Santa Barbara combined. With urban sprawl and poor planning came expansive impervious surfaces – absorbent soil covered instead by concrete and asphalt, increasing flood risks. Houston’s lack of zoning laws combined with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) also encouraged development in flood prone areas.

We’re subsidizing risky behavior

Private insurance companies don’t want to insure homes that face a significant risk of flooding, but with a lack of regulation and/or government insurance offered by NFIP, development in relatively high-risk flood areas can be profitable. That is, until a flood strikes. 85% of Houston homeowners don’t have flood insurance and will be unable to recover most of their losses from Hurricane Harvey. Others are covered by NFIP, which was already $24 billion in debt before Harvey. That’s because NFIP hasn’t been charging sufficiently high premiums, in large part because it has underestimated flood risks based on maps and projections that are sometimes decades out of date. And climate change is amplifying those flood risks.

It’s a challenging problem because for homeowners living in areas where flood risks have significantly increased, flood insurance premiums should hypothetically increase significantly to cover those risks. But factors like rising sea levels and expanding urban sprawl that contribute to that increased risk aren’t the fault of the homeowners, who can then become angry constituents for politicians working on updating NFIP. And so needed changes to the program have yet to be made.

As a result, the government is effectively subsidizing the costs associated with living in high-risk flood areas. Between 1978 and 2005, NFIP paid out $5.5 billion (9.6% of paid claims) to just 30,000 properties (0.6% of the total covered by flood insurance) that each flooded an average of five times. Because the NFIP premiums are too low, taxpayers end up footing billions of dollars of those payouts.

The situation is analogous to climate change. Without a price on carbon pollution, industries and individuals can dump carbon in the atmosphere for free. But that carbon pollution has costs that we eventually pay, in the form of increased property damage due to amplified storms like Hurricane Harvey, for example. Or from higher food prices when farmers are struck by an intensified drought, or decreased worker productivity in heat waves, or valuable coastal property lost to encroaching sea levels, or homes lost to bigger wildfires and increased costs to fight them – the list of climate costs goes on and on. 

Those costs are eventually paid by taxpayers, but we’re picking up the tab for the polluters. It’s effectively a subsidy for the fossil fuel industry to the tune of trillions of dollars every year, and as with artificially cheap flood insurance premiums, we’re subsidizing risky behavior that ultimately causes severe damages.

The Trump administration is in denial

Ten days before Hurricane Harvey hit, the Trump administration rolled back the Federal Flood Risk Mitigation Standard. The policy was implemented by the Obama administration, and required taxpayer-funded public infrastructure projects to plan for future flooding risks. Much infrastructure within and around Houston is now underwater, and accounting for future flooding risks when replacing it would be smart. But the Trump administration considered this policy a burdensome regulation, claiming that the infrastructure permitting process has too many “inefficiencies.” Apparently those “inefficiencies” include saving taxpayer money by reducing future flood losses.

When asked about the causes and contributors to Hurricane Harvey and its damages, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt sidestepped the subject by using the Trump administration’s favorite strategy – attack the media:

I think for opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause and effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced.

Worse yet, EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman accused climate scientists of “engaging in attempts to politicize an ongoing tragedy.” It’s similar to the argument that we shouldn’t talk about gun control in the aftermath of a mass shooting. That’s precisely when we should be working on solutions to prevent these types of disasters from happening again and again.

Denial increases suffering

Those who oppose climate policies will often argue that we can simply adapt to the consequences of human-caused climate change. Most recently, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens suggested that Harvey will just be a “speed bump” for Houston’s economy, and that the world should follow Houston’s example of “environmental resilience” by following “the path of its extraordinary economic growth.” The people in Texas suffering from having lost their homes and possessions probably aren’t comforted that Stephens considers Harvey a “speed bump” for the local economy (which coincidentally is probably not true). As renowned glaciologist Lonnie Thompson put it:

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Comments 1 to 50:

  1. Recommended supplemental reading...

    Harvey and climate change: why it won't change minds by Amy Harder, Axios, Sep 5, 2017

    Irma, Harvey reveal ‘massive national security risks’, Commentary by Sherri Goodman, CNBC. Sep 5, 2017 

    Three things we just learned about climate change and big storms: Can the lessons of Harvey save us? by Paul Rosenberg, Salon, Sep 4, 2017

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  2. ... and now Jose ... and maybe Katia this week?

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  3. Some of the climate denialists claim we dont need to tackle climate change now because  increasing wealth from economic growth means future generations can deal with climate disasters easily (as discussed in one of the links in the guardian article). This may not be viable. The trouble with this idea is you cannot assume  economies will grow indefinitely.

    Economic growth has already slowed considerably in America and most western countries. Economic growth was 6% per annum in the 1960s and is now down to approx. 2.5% typically. The trend is falling growth.

    You cannot have infinite growth in a finite world. There are numerous limits and factors acting to slow growth and the days of high economic growth are probably over. All the evidence points that way to slowing and even zero growth is possible. In western countries we have saturated markets, aging populations, etc.

    So to assume wealth and gdp growth in the future will somehow compensate for climate impacts is a very dubious assumption. Articles on future projections of economic growth:


    Im not promoting zero growth and some level of growth seems possible and desirable, but to assume high rates of growth forever in the future is insanity.

    Obviously it also depends on how growth is measured, and ideas of sustainable forms of growth with minimal enviromental impacts. But that means taking flood protection measures and altering energy use etc. Another subject I guess.

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  4. nigelj,

    Any economic activity that is not actually sustainable into the far distant future (millions of years into the future) can only temporarily create perceptions/impressions/delusions of prosperity or 'progress/advancement'.

    And developed perceptions based on unsustainable activity cannot be expected to grow or last indefinitely because the unsustainable reality of their basis is eventually undeniable. In fact, trying to grow/maintain perceptions by expanding or prolonging unsustainable activity will only make the eventual correcting/shattering of those delusions more significant.

    The USA today (and any other nation that deliberately developed in unsustainable directions) is facing that larger correction reality because of the dogged determination by many of their Wealthiest/Winners to try to prolong/expand their ability to maintain and grow unsustainable and unjustified perceptions by continuing to get away with unsustainable and understandably damaging activity.

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  5. Philosophical growth discussions aside, I think the link to the Niskanen Center post and discussion is crucial as it shows, again, that the NYT's Stephens is simply wrong whenever he writes about climate science and related issues. I would add two arguments to what Mr. Majkut (Niskanen Center) wrote:

    1. Effects are observed on a local/regional basis, while growth is observed on a national basis, so the comparison usually becomes one between apples and oranges. In addition, extreme weather effects disproportionally impact the poor, while (today's) growth disproportionally benefits the rich.

    2. What is missing from current analyses such as the ones by Pielke Jr. that Stephens highlights, are the effects of costs and benefits of experience and associated responses to extreme events, such as through stricter building codes. How much of local "growth" for instance after an event is due to rebuilding one way or another? IMHO, such "growth" ought not to be included into the overall calculations; it represents a bias. Also, how does the hypothesis of outgrowing disaster stack up against the frequency of events? Does anybody think "growth" would work if Houston were to suffer a Harvey-type event every other year?

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  6. Dick Smith is launching attacks on the abc for being a propaganda agent for unsustainable population growth by way of immigration for Australia.

    The panic is on.... perpetual growth is what got us into this mess and we are all starting to realise the ship needs to be righted before it's too late. Those who seek to live in better countries will all start screaming that it's unfair to lock them out from opportunity but this world has to realise it can't just keep burning endless fuel.

    Change is coming sooner rather than later I suspect. The murmurs are here already...

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  7. Drying out the air to prevent hurricanes like Harvey: In summer in Florida rain occurs daily during some periods. A sea breeze is created by hot rising air over the land, wind blows in from both sides (two sea breezes) and the two air masses collide. Pressure is created where they collide and the air has only one place to go and that is upward. This rising air creates convectional rain frequently. To dry out the air so that less hurricanes are formed in the Gulf, put wide strips of solar air heaters in the Gulf to imitate a sort of very narrow Florida and create convectional rain that way to dry the air and reduce hurricanes - see

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  8. Recommended supplemental reading...

    First Harvey, now Irma. Why are so many hurricanes hitting the U.S.? by Nisikan Akpan, PBS News Hour, Sep 6, 2017

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  9. Swayseeker@7,

    Global geoengineering like you have pointed to, in an attempt to control the damaging impacts of the understood to be negative Global Geoengineering impacts of unsustainable and damaging human developed activity, is a Very Bad Idea (building machines that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere is a possible exception, but planting plants to do that would be better more sustainable than building machines).

    Humanity has the potential to thrive on this planet for many millions of years. But to do that humanity has to have 'all of humanity' fitting in and living as a sustainable part of the robust diversity of life using the increased understanding of what is going on, like improved climate science, to develop even better ways to sustainably advance/improve humanity.

    There is little chance that the humanity will ever so fully understand the intricacies and inter-relatonships of the global environment to be virtually certain of all of the results of a global geoengineering action. Humanity can however, understand enough to know what activities have to be stopped because they are not sustainably improving things for humanity (what ways of winning have to be blocked or denied the opportunity to be gotten away with).

    Any faction of humanity that gets away with enjotying personal benefits in ways that are not sustainable (way that potentially negatively impact others, particularly future generations), is a potential serious threat to the future of humanity and needs to be dealt with that way.

    The robust current best understanding of the required direction/correction of development is presented in the Sustainable Development Goals. Those goals have been developed by a massive global collaboration of expertise, like the IPCC, that started before the 1972 Stockholm Conference. The IPCC is actually a sub-set of the Sustainable Development Goals effort. The Paris Agreement is also a sub-set of the actions by real leaders toward achieving the SDGs.

    Real Leaders Lead for Good Reason. Poor Excuses for Winning follow (or 'Win' through unjustified) public opinion. Citizen's United has clearly been one of the major steps towards the USA becoming a major Poor Excuse for Winners creators on the planet.

    Promoting popular support for the belief that future generations will develop the ability to globally geoengineer controls of the planet's environment is one of the Poorest Excuses for prolonging understood to be unsustainable and damaging pursuits of personal benefit. It is right up there with Denier/Delayer actions trying to keep climate science from being properly understood and 'popular'.

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  10. A bit of rough justice - The oil producing capital of the world being hit by a record breaking huricane and Very possibly a second one coming right after her.

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  11. Swayseeker, I think that could work in theory, but you would require so many solar heaters over millions of  kilometres of ocean it would cost trillions and trillions of dollars. Its just not practical and I can see this straight away. 

    Geoengineering climate can  also have unanticipated consequences as well, although I admit none are immediately obvious for your example.

    But putting the whole thing in context we have a range of growing environmental impacts, like climate change, over use of nitrate fertilisers, etc and its a question of what we do. Sometimes theres an obvious technical solution right now, but often there isnt a technical solution or the solution has dangerous side effects.

    I think the first approach should be prevention, which is obviously going to have the least undesirable consequnces. Only when prevention is difficult should we then look at technological fixes.

    We also cant assume future generations will come up with miracle cures to fix the problems we are creating now. We need some realism and management. The approach should be prevention where this makes sense, and sustainable use of the environment.

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  12. William @10, its also called karma.

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  13. Can someone explain to me how Michael Mann, known as a paleontologist measuring tree rings, et al, suddenly becomes an expert in jetstreams so he can opine on how climate change is exacerbating extreme natural events?  

    On another point, attempting to tie the first major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico in 12 years to climate change is a bit of a stretch.  So it does not "cause" them (no big ones for 12 years) but "exacerbates" them.  Obviously any hurricane will be impacted slightly by small changes in sea level and slight increases in water vapour but are there any studies to say by how much?  Is this 1% or 20%?  If it is only 1% then this just looks like  "piggybacking".   And if there have been no studies perhaps that should be stated. This just seems to be another event to point to disaster pending thanks to climate change when we are really just dealing with a common occurrence in this area.

    The biggest problem is the lack of preparedness for these kinds of storms (a point made by Lomberg in Cool It).  That is what causes a great deal of the damage.  But if people choose to live in areas where hurricanes are common, you have to expect to live with the consequences.  Why are they allowing people to build in flood zones?  If you do not want to build dikes to protect these areas (passing the cost on to those owning the properties protected by the dikes) then leave these areas to the birds.  Probably best to leave them to the birds anyways.  Good way to deal with encroaching sea levels.  Give up the lands to the birds. 

    What I find astounding is that 85% of homeowners did not have insurance for flood damage.  Do these homeowners not have mortgages?  I find it incredible that lenders would not require proof of flood damage protection in the insurance policies.  I bet they will in the future!   

    But another point made by Lomborg in his book relates to the number of deaths caused by natural disasters.  If this storm had occurred here 100 years ago (even with a much smaller population), how many deaths would it have caused?  Thanks to our technological progress there were  mercifully very few even when Mother Nature threw a big punch.  The loss of life could have been even less had the proper planning taken place. 

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  14. NorrisM@13 said: "Is this 1% or 20%? If it is only 1% then this just looks like "piggybacking". And if there have been no studies perhaps that should be stated."  I'm guessing 10% to 40% of the damage from Harvey can be attributed to climate change, but its too early for attribution studies to have been completed.  And can I just point out: once those studies are completed, there is a billion-dollar-a-year industry dedicated to slandering the authors of such studies as 'liberal elitists', so I'm not sure what value in the public realm such studies will carry.  The sad fact is that, thanks to that industry, those of us worried about the climate impacts of the future are left "piggybacking" onto overtly natural events.  Face it, when its not hot outside, that industry can bring its 'relax-everything-is-fine' message right into the US Congress in the form of a snowball.

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  15. "Thanks to our technological progress there were mercifully very few even when Mother Nature threw a big punch."

    You keep bringing this up. Its relevance is what? That you need FF to have technological progress? That seemed to be Lomberg's false dichotomy.

    Why the lack of flood insurance? Well it is only required if you are in “100-year floodplain” apparently. And since GOP doesnt believe in climate change, not seeing a lot of updating of those maps. That would be an example of red-tape hindering progress and driving up costs in the eyes of congress wouldnt it?

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  16. Swayseeker,

    Your reference does not mention your geoengineering scheme, it appears that you made it up o your own.  In addition to the problems others have pointed out, you would stop the rain over Florida during the rainy season and cause severe drought.  That would wipe out Florida agriculture.  It would also make the already extremely hot summers in Florida even hotter.

    On a scientific blog like SkS you are expected to produce citations that support your claims.  

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  17. NorrisM,

    If you are ignorant about the extensive contributions Michael Mann has made to various sections of climate science it is better to remain silent than to prove that you are ignorant.  As the OP states, Dr. Mann has published on the topic of stationary summer weather patterns and is exactly the type of expert you need for attribution of this event.  

    Here is Dr. Mann's CV.  A glance shows his degrees in Geology, Geophysics and Math, nothing on Palentology.  it will take you a long time to read he has so many accomplishments.  Dr, Mann is unusual because he contributes to so many different aspects of climate science (and other scientific disciplines).

    No climate skeptic has a comparable CV to Dr Mann.  You would understand more about AGW if you read more from Dr. Mann (at Realclimate) and wasted less time at denial sites.  The science is not that difficult if you read it.

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  18. NorrisM, instead of your many questions including affects of climate change on hurricanes etc, why dont you read The IPCC report 2013? You can download this from the IPCC website as below below on the "full report" link. This is the physical science basis, and it has three sections, the very brief summary for policy makers, the technical summary, and the full detail. Its only 1550 pages, nothing for a smart lawyer to read through, ha ha. I have read some parts of it.

    This report predicts more intense hurricanes and more rainfall associated with them. Every degree adds about 7% more water vapour so over time climate change will quite substantially increase heavy rainfall events, and has already had a detectable effect. And it's non linear and can have a greater effect than this in localised instances. But theres much more to the effects of climate change on weather, and you need to start reading all of it, because a failure to get the full picture just trips you up over and over, like a simple assumption about M Manns qualifications without checking. This is the problem with reading a few carefully selected bits on denier websites, this once tripped me up.

    You keep saying better technology saved lives from Hurricane Harvey, but it still caused massive property damage. Talk about not seeing the wood for the trees.

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  19. Moderator.  I would appreciate an explanation of what you mean by term "sloganeering" because I do not think I was just throwing out "slogans".

    michael sweet @ 17

    If Michael Mann has in the past published papers in areas other than in relation to past climates, then I do apologize.  I have read his book on the Climate Wars and I have to admit I was quite impressed with his "balanced' approach.  But from that book, which was quite autobiographical, it seemed to me that he had limited his research to attempting to determine what the temperature record had been in the past.  I have to say I was not impressed with his testimony before one of the House committees in March of this year which I watched on YouTube.  I do not think he is the best public face for the "scientific consensus" side.  My apologies to one other contributor (Onr Planet Only Forever) for the use of this term but if someone has a better one, please advise.

    nigelj @ 18

    My understanding was that the IPCC 2013 assessment made it clear that it did not have empirical evidence tying extreme weather events to climate change.  If I am incorrect, then, again, my apologies.  I will search for my reference for support for what I understood to be their position at that time.

    ubrew @ 12

    I fully understand your point that it is difficult to get the public to focus on climate change if they look out the window and everything looks pretty good.  I understand the temptation to point to extreme natural events to get their attention.  I am not sure I agree with the "frog in the saucepan" argument but it is difficult to convince both the public and politicians to take note of things when the effects are so gradual.    

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You have been repeatedly advised to read and adhere to this site's Comments Policy. Please do so now!

  20. NorrisM @19

    "My understanding was that the IPCC 2013 assessment made it clear that it did not have empirical evidence tying extreme weather events to climate change. If I am incorrect, then, again, my apologies. I will search for my reference for support for what I understood to be their position at that time."

    Yes you are quite wrong. The report has empirical evidence that in recent decades heatwaves and heavy rainfall events have already increased. It does not have empirical evidence that hurricanes have changed. It has evidence of many other things as well.

    The same report predicts futher increases in heavy rainfall events and that hurricane intensity will increase and droughts will increase.

    I have noticed the following. You often quote things without sources and say you will give sources, but just as often don't.

    You fill pages with as many denialist myths and slogans you can fit in, over and over even when its not really on topic. Yet you claim you are not a climate science sceptic.

    You ask people for clarifications, then never read their sources, always making some excuse you are too busy. You have done it for months.  You agree with things, then go back to your original position almost immediately.

    You like to create the impression you are just an interested individual, but your rhetoric as I have listed indicates you are more likely some sort of lobbyist, and theres a lot of concern trolling as well. 

    The frog slowly being boiled alive is a good analogy to climate change. The changes are somewhat incremental and people react accordingly. Mind you some politicians  are so dumb sea level could rise a metre in a week, and it would still all be a "chinese conspiracy".

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  21. NorrisM,

    It appears that you have not properly understood my comments.

    Scientific Concensus is a proper term. I use it. "Warmist" is a term I state should not be used since those people are actually Denier/Delayers. "Warmist" has actually be used to describe people who admit there may be some impact from CO2 increases but far less than the scientific concensus undersranding.

    I have re-read your post that promoted my replies and confirmed my understanding of your unacceptable use of te temr 'rather than scientific concensus'. Your use of the term "Warmist" for the scientific concensus undertsanding is an attempt to denigrate the concensus understanding.

    The following are direct quotes from my previous comments you are undeniably aware of and referring to:

    "'People who are more fully aware of the existing observations and experience related to climate science and the currently developed and constantly improving best explanation for all of that information'" (Look inrto the context of that quote)

    "... climate science is a very robustly developed field of investigation/observation and establishment of a Good Explanations for all of the avaliable information (even though there is more investigation and understanding to be added), the currently developed and presented concensus explanations/understanding regarding the matter should be considered to be "The Objective Understanding/Explanation/Truth of the matter for everyone to understand and accept unless/until some new 'justified and robustly defendable information' is presented that results in Good Reason to revise a part of that developed understanding"."

    Reread my posts, and all the other information you have read, setting aside yor personal preferrences for what you want to believe. Otherwise you will continue to misinterpret/misunderstand what you have read and continue to make-up false statements based on your lack of 'proper' understanding (maybe OK for a lawyer, but absolutely not what a Prefessional Engineer, or Professional Lawyer (or any other pursuer of a Profession), would consider Reasonable or Acceptable or Ethical).

    Scientific Concensus is a valid term as is Denier/Delayer. Warmist is a term that attempts to put a Good Light onto a Denier/Delayer, an attempt to create a false or misleading impression (and is a terrible 'replacement' for the term 'scientific concensus' regarding the climate science issue you were refrring to - how much warmer will the surface be due to added CO2).

    And attempting to claim that a Denier/Delayer is a Skeptic is equally a "false and deliberately misleading claim" (a "lie" if it is made by someone who actually knows better" rather than when made by someone whose personal bias - which they are blind to - has resulted in them not properly understanding something).

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  22. NorrisM was not impressed by Michael Mann's testimony and thereby reveals why the red/blue team idea is complete horse puckey. The powers that stand from financially benefitting from energy status quo know this very well and will make sure that they will have the best public face to line up, facts and weight of the evidence be dammed. This red team/blue team approach is a complete perversion of reason. It is not surprising that it came from lawyers, as this represents their modus operandi, and reality often takes a back seat in the courtroom. It's about winning, not about reality. I know that from first hand experience, I've been there.

    Harvey's costs is projected to be in the order of 180 billions. I'm sure the free market fanatics who reign over the area would have scoffed at the idea of spending that much over 20 years for renewable energy development and flood resilience. Simply because this was not going to be directly money in their pockets. The World is governed by ogres who do not give a damn about the future. The more time goes by, the more I agree with OPOF. 

    Say, NorrisM, if I told you that there is a possible fix to this whole climate thing, but it will cost about 15 trillion worldwide and they will have to be forked over during a period of just 2-3 years, would you agree to try?

    Then if I told you that it may not work out and there is a chance we could have nothing to show for the try, would you go for it? Of course, the operators spending that money will be held free of any harm if it goes belly up. What do you think? Deal?

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  23. One Planet  @21,  I think you are probably taking the term warmist too seriously or earnestly.  It's just a label and people do fall into various groups. 

    I think you have raised a good point to emphasise that climate science is a large body of carefully considered evidence, and no robust reason has been presented to question the IPCC process. We base human progress on trust in institutions, and its a sign of panic and desperation when people want alternative procedures like a red blue team, and this defeats the whole purpose and value of one global body with a consistent clear message for everyone one way or the other.

    NorrisM is suffering from a lot of confirmation bias. Its ironic because the IPCC reports go to almost extreme lengths to evaluate and list all the research and carefully state which things they are sure of and which they arent. The whole IPCC mechanism has done a good job of avoiding confirmation bias in its own work.

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  24. Philippe Chantreau @22

    I agree the legal process is different from science. The legal process is more based around appearance and rhetoric and a good deal of subtle intimidation. Lawyers are hard working people, but you cant really transfer their world onto science.

    I have also been involved in various court cases, all civil. I have employed several lawyers, and know the process intimately. I have no legal training, and have also represented myself several times in court and won every time. (wouldnt do it again, too stressful and risky). The legal process while evidence based, pushes various limits that have abolutely no place in the world of science, and would cause massive confusion and lead us down the wrong path. 

    The free market is a powerful and useful tool, but isn't good with dealing with environmental externalities. Only the law can deal with those. Once people  are personally accountable for problems the best choices will be made.

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    Good article on the monster hurricane of 1780

    perhaps the strongest in recorded history

    Interesting statment from the NOAA

    It is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet confidently modeled (e.g., aerosol effects on regional climate).

    The NOAA (via the vecchi study 2008) go on to state : 

    However, the density of reporting ship traffic over the Atlantic was relatively sparse during the early decades of this record, such that if storms from the modern era (post 1965) had hypothetically occurred during those earlier decades, a substantial number would likely not have been directly observed by the ship-based “observing network of opportunity.” We find that, after adjusting for such an estimated number of missing storms, there is a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. But statistical tests reveal that this trend is so small, relative to the variability in the series, that it is not significantly distinguishable from zero (Figure 2).

    In summary - over the course of 150+ years, all during a period of warming, the level of hurricane activity is statistically indistiquisable from over those years.  

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  26. Of course, and yet hurricane scientists have never seen a picture like the current one: Irma, the largest hurricane known to form in the Atlantic basin, Katia, which formed in the Gulf, and Jose. Meanwhile, the Northwest is seeing a horrendous fire season, with the largest fire in Southwest Oregon at around 176000 acres. My own neighborhood is covered in ash from the nearby Eagle Creek fire. Of course, there is also the drought in Europe, which has compromised the wine harvest in France and destroyed corn further to the east. All happening in the samne year. But, it's all good, no statistically significant trend, we're cool. 

    I note that NorrisM has not answered my proposal. Such a deal was imposed to us before, albeit its only reason to exist were the disgusting fees gobbled by the finance barons who caused it. The last time that the World blew 15 trillions was in 2008 and we have nothing to show for it. Interestingly, it was not a disaster like the 1929 crisis, which goes to show that such an investment, if it had been directed to do some good, would have been possible to absorb with relatively little damage. But no, doing anything serious about energy transition will ruin the economy. What a joke.

    Capitalism is likely the best way to run societies. It can work only if well regulated, by laws that aim at the public good. Unfettered capitalism is a loosing ideology that has already been slapped in the face multiple times by reality, yet its advocates are in complete denial and continue to try to beat the world into submitting to their madness. 

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  27. Tom 13: The NOAA article that you have extracted quotes from is:

    Global Warming and Hurricanes: An Overview of Current Research Results posted on the website of NOAA's Geophysical Fluids Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). It was last revised on Aug 30, 2017.  

    The article has been repeatedly cited and linked to by more than one mainstream climate scientist who has been interviewed by the media about the climate change-hurricane* connection in recent articles about Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Katia. 

    *In this context hurricane means a tropical cyclone occuring in the North Atlantic basin only. Hurricanes also occur in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Tropical cyclones occuring in the Pacific Ocean of the southern hemisphere are called Typhoons. 

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  28. Recommended supplemental reading:

    The science behind the U.S.’s strange hurricane ‘drought’ — and its sudden end by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Sep 7, 2017

    6 Questions About Hurricane Irma, Harvey and Climate Change by Sabrina Shankman, InsideClimate News, Sep 6, 2017

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  29. nigelj @ 20

    No, I am not a closest "lobbyist".  My understanding of the purpose of this website was to inform those who had questions.  If you have to have all of your information thoroughly researched so that you have covered all angles then that is another matter.

    I agree that my language was not correct relating to "extreme weather events" because it is logical that if the termperature goes up there will be more droughts and I am fully aware that the IPCC has also predicted more rainfall.  I should have limited my comments to hurricanes.  You seem to suggest that the IPCC has done some research to show that the intensity of hurricanes will increase.  I will take your word on that in that I do not have the time to read the full 2013 Assessment.

    I have to admit that I wondered whether I should have made the comment about Michael Mann because I knew it would not go over well.  But that is certainly what I would think the "man on the street" would think about Michael Mann and his area of expertise.  This was not some repetition from some other website.  

    In any event, I suspect that I have worn out my welcome.  I will from time to time check in to see if everyone agrees with everyone else which seems to be what is preferred on this website. 

    Let me know when someone comes up with an answer on how to move forward in the face of a Republican administration if it is not to embrace the Red Team Blue Team.

    I would like to stay on the blog relating to costs of changing from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewable energy economy because this is much more related to numbers rather than predictions.  I have read the IPCC 2014 Summary but I have to read the underlying report. 

    Having said that,  I did not think this website was prepared to extend its reach into that area but for its one blog re the costs to Trump country.  Perhaps the moderator can comment on whether it is appropriate to continue the discussion of costs on that blog.

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  30. And once again, Tom13 pretends that lack of conclusive evidence is the same as no evidence at all.

    Do you really seriously believe that, Tom, or are you just hoping nobody notices? I can keep pointing it out as fast as you keep making this mistake. If you want to discuss this properly, feel free to engage.

    0 0
  31. NorrisM: "You seem to suggest that the IPCC has done some research..."

    Please get this straight: the IPCC does not do research. They review it. They report on research that has been done indepently by others and published by others. Yes, the participants in the IPCC are researchers and have done some of the research being cited - but they do that research outside the function of the IPCC.

    Do you understnad why this is important? Please acknowledge that you understand, or ask for clarification if you do not.

    ...and as a suggestion for reading, do not go to the later IPCC reports first. I suggest that you start with the first IPCC report, from 1990:


    Why? Because the first report covers a lot more of the basics of climatology. It is less technical. It serves as a better reader for the student, rather than the expert.The later reports assume a pre-existing knlowedge of much of the material covered in earlier reports.

    And you will also realize that an awful lot was already known over 25 years ago.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened link.

  32. NorrisM @29

    " My understanding of the purpose of this website was to inform those who had questions. “

    Yes it is, but you often ignore the answers in the past.

    “You seem to suggest that the IPCC has done some research to show that the intensity of hurricanes will increase. I will take your word on that in “

    Well the contents page will get you to the right chapter. The IPCC say theres no clear evidence of whether hurricanes have got worse so far, but the problem is hurricanes are not that common and records of intensity are rough. However theres evidence levels of associated rainfall have increased.

    The IPCC predict more intensity of hurricane wind forces and general energy content and rainfall content in the future, but probably not more frequency of hurricanes. They present reasons for both.

    “I have to admit that I wondered whether I should have made the comment about Michael Mann because I knew it would not go over well. But that is certainly what I would think the "man on the street" would think about Michael Mann and his area of expertise.”

    Yes I see your point the man in the street might react like that, but if you had just noted after your comment that he was in fact more widely qualified it wouldn’t have got my back up, and possibly others. Michael Mann has had death threats, and Im a guy interested in science so I get defensive when he's criticised unfairly or missrepresented on his qualifications.

    “Let me know when someone comes up with an answer on how to move forward in the face of a Republican administration if it is not to embrace the Red Team Blue Team.”

    I undertand where you are going with that and you mean well, but the problem is the red blue team has too much chance of moving things backwards, so is not worth the risk.

    “I would like to stay on the blog relating to costs of changing from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewable energy economy because this is much more related to numbers rather than predictions.”

    Yes I see where you are coming from people are generally more receptive to renewable energy than squabbles over model predictions, but this website is mostly a science website and only touches on renewable energy in passing. Maybe it should include it more.

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  33. NorrsM @29

    And yes as pointed out by others the IPCC doesn't do research, it figures out where the research is pointing.

    Every chapter has a bibliography of hundreds and hundreds of science papers they have reviewed. Quite how a red blue team can do a similar in depth review  with a couple of people over a couple of months eludes me. And the trouble is its hard isolating the critical research, climate science is something where you just have to review everything.

    It was only after I read several popular books and followed up on several things in more detail on the physical laws, and climate data, that I was able to sort things out and see the sceptical myths for what they are, clever twisted rhetoric: Sophistry, and you would fully understand that word given your academic training.

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  34. nigelj@23,

    I am still sorting out thoughts to try to be brief yet clear.

    The term/label Warmist, without clear context, is not a good term to use by itself.

    Climate science has robustly established Good Reasoned Explanations based on all the available evidence.

    Therefore, people who want to claim that the amount of warming due to increased CO2 is less than the established understanding without actually providing significant robust new information or explanations are a sub-set of the Denier/Delayer group.

    Some people are referring to those type of made-up claim-makers as Warmists (including those type of people referring to themselves that way). But such a label needs to be clearly understood to be a sub-set of the Denier/delayer group. Using Warmist to refer to people who aren't honestly legitimately contributing to increased awareness and better understanding may shed an undeserved 'positive light' on what they are trying to get away with, or may annoy people who think that an 'ist' label like Warm-ist is undeservingly dismissive.

    NorrisM referring to the scientific consensus group as "Warmists" could easily be interpretted as a denigration of the science consensus group (and his use of that term that way is the main focus of my commenting). His other comments appear to be attempts to be dismissive of, or argue unjustifiably against, the scientific consensus and the resulting required changes of human activity (basically trying to argue against part of the Sustainable Develop Goals without justification) rather than contribute to increased awareness and better understanding.

    My point is that the consensus understanding regarding climate science issues are 'robustly defendable for what they are'. It would be clearer if all claim-making that does not have a robust significant 'new understanding' basis, or persistent questioning contrary to that understanding (a failure to learn from the responses to questions asked) was always referred to as the actions of a Denier/Delayer or a sub-group, not just "Warmists".

    NorrisM's use of Warmist for the Climate Science Consensus group could be seen as 'legitimate by someone having unjust reasons for preferring to believe things that are contrary to the developed best understanding (a Denier/Delayer)'. And 'someone having unjust reasons for preferring to believe things that are contrary to the developed best understanding (a Denier/Delayer)' could see the use of the term Warmist by people trying to support the consensus understanding as an undeserved denigration of what the Denier/Delayers would prefer to believe.

    Perception can lead to 'Belief'. And 'Belief' can clearly be contrary to independently confirmable understanding (Reality).

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  35. One Planet Only @34

    I think you are technically correct about the term warmist and what it implies, and context etc. Shrewd observation.

    I also find the term demeaning and very annoying, and its intended to be demeaning like the term "liberal elite" or "too pc".

    But most people wont have any idea what you are getting at (average IQ is 100) They will just see you as being petty and over complicating things.  

    It's a term I hate, but accept in good humour. Instead I would say "yes Im a warmist because thats where the evidence points". Dont let them "bait you" with label, move right on past it and swivel discussion right back to the facts and evidence.

    0 0
  36. nigelj@35,

    You are correct. I am "Excessively-Reacting" to NorrisM's use of the term Warmist to refer to the scientific concensus side of the debate he believes is "Inevitable" and could be "Helpful".

    This started on the comment string of "The Trump administration wants to bail out failed contrarian climate scientists".

    I am emphasizing the understanding that the two sides of any discussion regarding the well developed and robustly defendable understandings of climate science -> global warming -> climate change must be understood to be "The well developed and robustly defendable understandings" which can be called the "Scientific consensus on the matter" but not a term open to interpretation such as "Warmists".

    Of course, that means that 'Everyone genuinely interested in developing and delivering New Evidence to improve/increase the awareness and understanding is part of the Consenses team' as long as they are producing robustly defendable new information/understanding.

    Everyone else is on the Other Side. and all the other side has are questions that can be answered and criticisms that can be debunked. And everyone who is still trying to do that after all these decades of opoortunity to be more aware and better understand this issue deserve to be called Denier/Delayers. And that means the matter is Undebateable. Questions can be asked and answered. And attempts to change the understanding that are not robust get debunked. And the public gets the questions along with the answers, the weak claims with their debunking, from every information source that ever delivered climate related statements.

    And it is the contunued effort to drum up unjustified popular support for 'beliefs' contrary to the developed better understanding for climate science that has kept Leaders who consider themselves 'beholden to popularity rather than responsible to inform and correct misundertstandings' to fail to Lead the improvement of protection of the general popultion from the more difficult to accurately predict but most likely to be increasing risks of harm being created by rapid climate change due to rapid global warming due to massive global impacts from humanactiovity that is ultimately unsustainable and has aletrnative (though admittedly more expensive that getting away with the unsustianbel damaging activities for as long as can 'Popularly' be gotten away with, especially when people perceived to be Winners can succeeed through actions that promote the unjustified and damaging popularity)

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  37. From the last paragraph in the article

     With urban sprawl and poor planning came expansive impervious surfaces – absorbent soil covered instead by concrete and asphalt, increasing flood risks.

    just a note - Houston's soil is a black clay - which is not very absorbent

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] No reference equals sloganeering. Ditto for the assertion, "not very absorbent." 

    Please document the source of your statement about the Houston soil.

  38. NorrisM @ 29


    nigelj @ 32

    "The IPCC say theres no clear evidence of whether hurricanes have got worse so far, but the problem is hurricanes are not that common and records of intensity are rough."

    In other words, to assert that the IPCCs predictions cannot be trusted is like saying no one should have believed Eratosthenes' ( 276 BC - 194 BC ) calculations regarding the circumference because the Magellanic Voyage would not taken place for almost anoth 1,500 years.

    Quite simply, even though seeing is believeing and believing is seeing, understanding allows us to believe that which cannot be seen.

    0 0
  39. Tom13,

    Houston's soil is a vertisol. (Houston black gumbo)  It actually can absorb up to 12 times its volume in water. 

    However because it swells and shrinks so much from changes in water, it actually has a pretty poor infiltration rate. It swells shut the pore spaces and channels required to infiltrate rapidly.

    We can fix the soil though:

    The Soil
    Science Society of America defines a claypan as,
    “A dense, compact, slowly permeable layer in the
    subsoil having a much higher clay content than
    the overlying material, from which it is separated
    by a sharply defined boundary. Claypans are
    usually hard when dry, and plastic and sticky
    when wet.” Claypan layers hinder root growth
    into the soil, are acidic (pH <5.0), and may
    contain toxic levels of aluminum.
    The roots of eastern gamagrass contain
    aerenchyma tissue, which is tissue with air
    passages (Alberts, 1997). Roots with aerenchyma
    are spongy, with large holes formed by cells either
    pulling apart or disintegrating. These holes run
    longitudinally through the roots. They enable
    roots in flooded soil to transport air from the
    aboveground parts of the plant. W. Doral Kemper,
    retired ARS scientist, explains “aerenchyma
    tissue enables roots to survive and punch through
    the claypan layer when it’s wet, the only time it’s
    soft enough to be penetrated. These roots live less
    than 2 years. But when they die, they decompose
    slowly and help hold channels open for new
    generations of roots, providing gamagrass with
    continued access to water in and below the clay

    0 0

    Red # 39

    Black gumbo soil is a clay based soil, with very low permeability which is what I meant by not being very absorbent.  This quality of the soil is well known by the locals. This type of soil is not a very common soil type. It is located primarily in a narrow stretch from north of dallas south through the houston area.  

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thank you. What is the permeability index of this soil compared to asphalt and concrete?

  41. Permeability index of soil versus concrete and asphalt.

    No answer from Tom.

    Im not an engineer but this got me intrigued. The Houston clays have very low permeability,and the numbers are on the internet. 

    The trouble is concrete and asphalt measures it using a different scale and its a headache comparing them. Also the permeability of concrete and asphalt varies from essentially zero to quite high permeability for modern environmentally friendly products introduced in the late 1980s. Its hard to know what types of concrete and asphalt Houston has used over the years, but I would hazard a guess the older materials have essentially zero permeability and are the dominant surfaces.

    I think the article was therefore correct to say concrete and asphalt would increase flooding risk, but perhaps not by huge ammounts given the very low permeability of the clays.

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  42. nigelj: The permeability index of Houston's clay soil versus concrete and asphalt is only one dimension of the matter at hand. Vegitation grows in clay soils and its presence will increase the soil's permeability and slow the rate of water flow. Like most US metro areas, Houston has "paved over paradise".

    0 0
  43. John Hartz @42, I agree vegetation slows down impacts of rainfall. Topsoils and upper levels of clays that are dry, would also absorb a lot of moisture and act as a cushion. I was just intrigued on the permeability comparison just of the materials, in terms of water ultimately getting down to the water table. 

    What was that song "they paved papadise and put up a parking lot"? Bob Dylan, or Joni Mitchell I think one or the other.

    And regardless of all this the main point I took from the article was higher temperatures do cause more flood events. The ground surfaces are just a side issue, to the weather / climate processes.

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  44. nigelj: I also suspect that a goodly portion of the greater Houston metro area was also wetlands prior to being "developed."

    The song was "Big Yellow Taxi" written and sung by Joni Mitchell. The frst two stanzas: 

    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel *, a boutique
    And a swinging hot spot

    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    *The Pink Hotel in this song is most likely the Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu.

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  45. John Hartz, I should have known that song was hers. I was lucky enough to see Joni Mitchell play live many years ago, and she is an appealing, astonishing, multi talented musician. I have a couple of cd's somewhere, court and spark, and heijra, and blue. I have heard she is very unwell these days, unfortunately, but the music is timeless.

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  46. I did hear a piece on NPR which discussed changing development laws in Texas to prevent people from simply routing runoff directly into the bayous causing flooding downstream. It suggested that artificial retention ponds are not a common thing in Texas. This is surprising to me. I thought there was some federal law requiring that wetlands destroyed by development be replaced with created wetlands. 

    With development of course, one must consider not only blacktop and concrete, but also rooves of various materials. With the exception of green rooves, rooves are impermeable by design. 

    Also, note that the weight of pavement and other construction materials and the machinery and activity of construction will result in compaction of the underlying soil. This will not promote water infiltration. Also, if you have a permeable pavement there will still be a slowing of infiltration at the interface between that material and the soil. Anytime you have a difference in texture between layers in a soil it slows infiltration. It doesn't matter whether that is a finer soil layer over a coarser one, or vice versa. 

    The bottom line is that more development will result in more runoff. 

    0 1
  47. @ John 44,

    You said, "I also suspect that a goodly portion of the greater Houston metro area was also wetlands prior to being "developed.""

    In actuality this was a very famous portion of prairie biome, well known as the most southernly portion of the once great tallgrass prairie of North America. The average grass in Houston was at one time well over the height of a man and in areas approaching 10-12 feet tall! In those days the soil would have infiltrated and held at minimum 25 times more water by volume and by rate than its current degraded state.

    Read up on this most southern spur of the great tallgrass prairie (called the blackland prairies ecoregion in Texas) here:

    Native Prairies association of Texas

    As pointed out earlier here, one particular grass (Eastern Gamagrass) evolved here had a special root system capable of penetrating the clay and opening up channels. This is not some random generic "vegetation" it was a very highly evolved carbon pump into the soil that had a very strong symbiotic relationship with a whole host of other species, not the least of which was AMF.

    Nigelj #43,

    You said, "The ground surfaces are just a side issue, to the weather / climate processes." Not at all. In fact the exact opposite on both counts. The soil is the PRIMARY factor actually for watershed function and at least equal with regards to the Carbon cycle.

    0 0
  48. RedBaron: Thank you for filling us in re the former prairie biome of the greater Houston metyro area — most informative and interesting.  

    Swtiching gears, do you plan to read the new report, The Global Land Outlook, just issued by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)?  

    0 0
  49. John,

    I read as much as I could stand until I got so angry my computer screen was in danger of being thrown across the room. Don't get me wrong. I see nothing but good intentions. Unfortunately good intentions doomed to fail.

    Expect little to no help from GLO. Even while understanding the current paradigm is failing, they are still stuck in it. Lots and lots of great information there. Don't get me wrong. What is lacking is a good understanding of the whole system and how it all connects.

    For example. Take the cow. The way it is raised now it is inefficient and degrading the environment. Completely unsustainable. That includes all sorts of mismanagement. Over gazing, under grazing, feedlots, confinement dairies. Almost every way out there to raise a cow is wrong. Even some cultures thousands of years old have been doing it wrong thousands of years. Feedlots only took what was bad and made it worse!

    So it is easy to see why some might conclude that lowering meat production is required to get to a sustainable solution. The models  Chapter 6 | Scenarios of Change clearly show this paradigm and if that wasn't spelled out well enough there, the executive summary specifically does.

    And yet that conclusion is completely wrong. It's a wicked problem of complexity, so I get it. It might be nearly impossible for any comity to get right. But it is doomed to failure as presented.

    We actually have to increase animal production while reducing grain production by 50% - 75% +/-. Those animals need integrated back on the farm, then managed properly as an important proxy for wild ecosystem function. Scale is not a problem. Animals scale better than almost anything in agriculture. But the imbalance right now is too many crops and not enough animals on the farm displaying their evolved purpose to the artificial agricultural ecosystem.

    "The pigs do that work (by rooting in the forest and that creates the temporary disturbance on the ground that allows germination for higher successional species.) And so it allows for those pigs to be not just pork chops, bacon, and that. But now they then become co-conspirators and fellow laborers in this great land healing ministry ... by fully respecting the pigness of the pig." Joel Salatin

    “As the small trickle of results grows into an avalanche — as is now happening overseas — it will soon be realized that the animal is our farming partner and no practice and no knowledge which ignores this fact will contribute anything to human welfare or indeed will have any chance either of usefulness or of survival.” Sir Albert Howard (emphasis mine)

    “The number one public enemy is the cow. But the number one tool that can save mankind is the cow. We need every cow we can get back out on the range. It is almost criminal to have them in feedlots which are inhumane, antisocial, and environmentally and economically unsound.” Allan Savory

    Once you commit to a sustainable system, then two things happen. The animal tools that were the greatest destruction become the tools for greatest repair. The whole reason for Biofuels as currently being produced ends. 

    Biofuels ONLY makes sense in a system where they are burned and then CO2 extrated and sequestered from the stack in a CCS system. But the technology to do that doesn't exist.

    The LCP does exist and has been well vetted at scale in the field for decades.[1] Foolish to follow a failed path when the sucessful path is already known. Throwing good money after bad because the investors spent so much on the failed "king corn" paradigm they refuse to awknowledge their loss. I am sorry they spent trillions on it. But time to admit it's lipstick on a pig.

    This dichotomy is probably best described here:

    John D Liu talks about Allan Savory & Holistic Management

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  50. Red Baron @49, I meant the ground issues are a side issue in the sense Tom is missing the big picture, namely that warmer temperatures are causing more floods. 

    Obviously you are right surfaces are critical to flood impacts, and roads, buildings and urbanisation can make flooding worse. I showed this anyway in my comment.

    We should be preserving wetlands and using more permeable ashphalt etc. Trouble is this requires environmental rules the very things the Trump Adminsitration opposes. This whole thing has become a political problem sadly to say. Political and ideological.

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