We hope all our readers are safe. Our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones–and with the millions who were affected by Hurricane Sandy and will continue to be in the coming days. Posting might be a little slow today as many of our East coast bloggers lost power last night. In the meantime, here are some things to read. Add your links in the comments.
The New York Times reminds us that dealing with a disaster on the scale of Sandy requires exactly the kind of big government that Romney and the GOP wants to eliminate.
Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.
Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages. After Mr. Romney’s 2011 remarks recirculated on Monday, his nervous campaign announced that he does not want to abolish FEMA, though he still believes states should be in charge of emergency management. Those in Hurricane Sandy’s path are fortunate that, for now, that ideology has not replaced sound policy.
At the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert notes that while it’s impossible to attribute Sandy specifically to climate change, the pattern toward more extreme weather certainly can be–and it’s amazing n
Coming as it is just a week before Election Day, Sandy makes the fact that climate change has been entirely ignored during this campaign seem all the more grotesque. In a year of record-breaking temperatures across the U.S., record drought conditions in the country’s corn belt, and now a record storm affecting the nation’s most populous cities, neither candidate found the issue to be worthy of discussion. Pressed about this finally the other day on MTV, President Obama called climate change a “critical issue” that he was “surprised” hadn’t come up during any of the debates, a response that was at once completely accurate and totally disingenuous. (As one commentator pointed out, he might have brought up this “critical” issue on his own since “he is the friggin’ POTUS.”)
It is, at this point, impossible to say what it will take for American politics to catch up to the reality of North American climate change. More super-storms, more heat waves, more multi-billion-dollar “weather-related loss events”? The one thing that can be said is that, whether or not our elected officials choose to acknowledge the obvious, we can expect, “with a high degree of confidence,” that all of these are coming.
ThinkProgress notes that economic inequality is a key reason why natural disasters like Sandy “wreak such havoc inside the United States.”
That our stratified society makes storms more deadly is nearly universally believed by disaster experts. According to a paper by three experts at the University of South Carolina (Cutter et al.), “[t]here is a general consensus within the social science community” that some key causes of vulnerability to storms include “lack of access to resources (including information, knowledge, and technology); limited access to political power and representation; social capital, including social networks and connections; beliefs and customs; building stock and age; frail and physically limited individuals; and type and density of infrastructure and lifelines.” Inequality was, the researchers found, the single most important predictor of vulnerability to storm damage — variation in the wealth of individual counties alone explained 12.4 percent of the differences in the impact of natural disasters between counties.
Racialicious is pulling together some resources for help.
And to end on a happy note…