FEMA at the Park

While the Generalissimo was batting roles of paper towels around in Puerto Rico yesterday, FEMA was also busy…ovenighting $3 million to Cheyenne, WY, to convert a parking lot into a public park.

’cause white people have their own, unique emergencies.

Hurricane Harvey battered Texas, Hurricane Irma cut through Florida, and Hurricane
Maria absolutely bashed Puerto Rico. Anyone unlucky enough to be in the path of those
storms will spend months, if not years, piecing their lives together again – fixing homes,
rebuilding businesses, and burying drowned family.

But the good people of Cheyenne, Wyo., they will be just fine.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency just approved the city’s request for a $3 million grant to build the Civic Center Commons park. As 3.4 million Puerto Ricans struggle to find safe drinking water, FEMA announced that they’d help turn a parking lot in downtown Cheyenne into a drainage pond.

The project was always controversial. The city council branded it downtown revitalization while Mayor Marian Orr said it was a waste and fought for months to shut it down…

A wonderful park? Maybe. An emergency requiring federal funding? Not al all. The FEMA grant literally gives the city until Sept. 2018 to build a new drainage system…

FEMA has already come to Congress hat in hand for cash. …House Speaker Ryan assured reporters that the agency will receive a $6.7 billion check for approved hurricane relief. And while oversized spending is needed to address these …biblically proportioned catastrophes, one wonders if FEMA would have more money for flood victims if they hadn’t wasted it on pork projects.

To add insult to injury the city engineer has been trying to halt the project; by his lights the project used false information when applying for the FEMA grant, deliberately overstating the amount of flood damage that regularly occurs (to any number of white people) in downtown Cheyenne.

Priorities, people. Priorities.

FEMA at the Park

Terminal Stage

Back-to-back severe bleaching events have affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, new aerial surveys have found.

The findings have caused alarm among scientists, who say the proximity of the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events is unprecedented for the reef, and will give damaged coral little chance to recover.

Scientists with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies last week completed aerial surveys of the world’s largest living structure, scoring bleaching at 800 individual coral reefs across 8,000km.

The results show the two consecutive mass bleaching events have affected a 1,500km stretch, leaving only the reef’s southern third unscathed.

Where last year’s bleaching was concentrated in the reef’s northern third, the 2017 event spread further south, and was most intense in the middle section of the Great Barrier Reef. This year’s mass bleaching, second in severity only to 2016, has occurred even in the absence of an El Niño event.

Terminal Stage

Water Water Everywhere

Good time to be gutting the EPA, amirite?

On a predictably gorgeous South Florida afternoon, Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason sat in his office overlooking the white-linen restaurants of this affluent seaside community and wondered when climate change would bring it all to an end. He figured it would involve a boat.

When Cason first started worrying about sea-level rise, he asked his staff to count not just how much coastline the city had (47 miles) or value of the property along that coast ($3.5 billion). He also told them to find out how many boats dock inland from the bridges that span the city’s canals (302). What matters, he guessed, will be the first time a mast fails to clear the bottom of one of those bridges because the water level had risen too far.

“These boats are going to be the canary in the mine,” said Cason, who became mayor in 2011 after retiring from the U.S. foreign service. “When the boats can’t go out, the property values go down.”

If property values start to fall, Cason said, banks could stop writing 30-year mortgages for coastal homes, shrinking the pool of able buyers and sending prices lower still. Those properties make up a quarter of the city’s tax base; if that revenue fell, the city would struggle to provide the services that make it such a desirable place to live, causing more sales and another drop in revenue.

And all of that could happen before the rising sea consumes a single home…

…Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock. Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply. The area’s drainage canals rely on gravity; as oceans rise, the water utility has had to install giant pumps to push water out to the ocean…

…Sean Becketti, the chief economist at Freddie Mac, warned in a report last year of a housing crisis for coastal areas more severe than the Great Recession, one that could spread through banks, insurers and other industries. And, unlike the recession, there’s no hope of a bounce back in property values…

…The National Flood Insurance Program is up for reauthorization this year; fiscal conservatives have said they want to use that opportunity to reduce the program’s subsidies, so that people are paying something closer to the full cost of their risk.
A cut in federal subsidies would particularly hurt Florida, which despite its exposure pays the lowest average flood-insurance premiums in the country, according to FEMA data.

Laura Reynolds is the former executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society, Miami’s oldest environmental group; she’s lived in her house in Cutler Bay, an hour’s drive south of Miami, for 13 years. She said she had once hoped to pass it on to her niece or nephew, but now plans to sell.

“The future of our coastline is completely doomed,” Reynolds said. “The question is, how long will we have?”

Much less time than you think…

Water Water Everywhere

A River Doesn\’t Run Through It

An immense river that flowed from one of Canada’s largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world’s geography.

The abrupt and unexpected disappearance of the Slims river, which spanned up to 150 metres at its widest points, is the first observed case of “river piracy”, in which the flow of one river is suddenly diverted into another.

For hundreds of years, the Slims carried meltwater northwards from the vast Kaskawulsh glacier in Canada’s Yukon territory into the Kluane river, then into the Yukon river towards the Bering Sea. But in spring 2016, a period of intense melting of the glacier meant the drainage gradient was tipped in favour of a second river, redirecting the meltwater to the Gulf of Alaska, thousands of miles from its original destination.

The continental-scale rearrangement was documented by a team of scientists who had been monitoring the incremental retreat of the glacier for years. But on a 2016 fieldwork expedition they were confronted with a landscape that had been radically transformed.

There will be screaming, wailing and the rending of the breasts when New York 2014 actualizes close to a century earlier 1 than its author anticipated.

Until then it will be business as usual.

A River Doesn't Run Through It

Show 1 footnote

  1. Especially if the Zachariae Isstrom glacier totally collapses, adding nearly two feet to sea levels. But, hey! No worries, amirite?