Posted by: Dr Churchill | November 1, 2012

Sandy’s Stormy Political Consequences

Millions of people are facing life risks, devastating damages and financial losses from Superstorm – Hurricane Sandy.
My heart is out to them and my spirit is keenly aware of the sadness and pain they have gone through.
Yet my mind rejoices that this might be the lesson we all need to get off our ass and do something about this awful thing called Climate Change.

Because in addition to the damages to homes, businesses and communities, Sandy is expected to tally up losses of a shocking $150 billion in uninsured damages overall and somewhere around $15 billion in insured losses. The rest of the costs, projected as high as $150 billion – will be born mostly by individuals, citizens and taxpayers through personal, family, business, community, city, state and federal infrastructure replenishment and rebuild payments.

Nobody expected a hurricane to be this devastating. Not this strangely erratic. Nobody expected a superstorm to make landfall so far North in the US so late in the year. And in particularly, nobody assumed this to happen in the mid-Atlantic or Northeast states. Yet all of these assumptions wee proven wrong. And it is becoming normal to expect all this to be repeated — soonest. Because if the last few years are any indication, these extreme weather events and these climate change patterns are becoming the “new normal”. Climate Chaos has arrived and it is the non linear event — par excellence — to expect. Nothing can be fully forecast. Nothing can be ruled out. No matter how devastating or scary the consequences might be, they  cannot be ruled out…

What is one to do?

Since 1999 the Environmental Parliament has been urging Businesses, Insurance companies and Financial Institutions to reckon with the economic implications of increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather induced by climate change. A recent report, Stormy Futures: The Growing Costs and Risks of Extreme Weather Events, highlights the financial impact of increased droughts, wildfires, and flooding, and forecasts continued losses unless insurers incorporate climate risk into their underwriting and pricing strategies. But it’s not just the insurance companies that are on the hook – as insurers retreat from the highest-risk areas, it will be the government and the taxpayers paying the bill for damages wrought by extreme weather.

New York went dark for the first time since it’s illumination as the Big Apple that never sleeps and where all sins are expiated. Well — not all of them really…

We have a 100-year flood every two years now” says New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo… 

Something gotta give.

Seems like the sins of Fossil Fuel burning came finally back home to bite New York in the ass. Or the “derriere” as polite company would have it. Point being, the circle of responsibility is now complete and more stormy Sandys will be coming down the pike, whether we like it or not.

Storms like Sandy arriving every couple of years if not more frequently than that to spread their devastation is unthinkable…

Yet it happens already.

“Get used to it” is what the Republican candidate for President says. It’s the weather … and not much we can do about it. It’s God’s will. Divine action to drown the sinners of the Big Apple. You hear all that from the cheerful Mormons who come  knocking on your door anyway and you learned to ignore it. How will you manage to ignore that message when their Bishop, Mitt Romney saddles his horse manure in the White House is another matter….

These scenes of devastation remind us of Fukushima Japan and not United States and yet they are from new Jersey and New York city.

Still all of the North Eastern United States and the whole of the North East America is now reeling in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. People are dead, millions are without electricity and damage estimates top $120 billion and maybe up to $150 billion when all, is accounted for, all said and all done. And that is far from the full impact this storm has wrought…

Because over the next few weeks, months, and even years, the true extent of the damage costs will become clear to all the many millions of people who must now get up, soldier on and go out to clean up. They will find out they have to rebuild all that in a new way. A more resilient way perhaps. And the realization has dawned on people that all the new stuff is still mostly unable to meet the next bigger, freakier, scarier super storm to come. And that is the real damage that has been done. A major upset to our way of thinking and our ways of reacting to such events.

The impact of this Climate Change driven super storm and associated sea level surges, tsunami like waves lapping up the land and inundating coastal cities, along with all of the combined freak weather systems and Climate Chaos that conspired to create this killing Super Storm Sandy — is hard to estimate. That much is clear to all scientists and  lay people alike. Whether the implications of this are clear to the leaders and administrators in charge is another matter.

It’s no longer a question of resources because the economic impacts of climate change are being felt today and will continue to escalate dramatically unless we take action to stop global warming and thus reverse the root of the problem. EP will continue to push in this direction for the pivotal Finance, Business, Insurance and Reinsurance industry to reckon with their responsibilities to address the realities of climate change and finally take leadership action to put our economy on a sustainable path.

Because Business understands complexity better than governments, administrations and leaders do.

Because as with most civil time problems, the risks were anticipated by the administration and responses planned for them in a linear way.

Danger of fire — Equip fire departments.

Possible electricity failure — Turn off transformers and give hospitals generators.

Risk of floods — Built barriers.

But that is not addressing the root of the problem and is ignoring the basics of science…

We see this in New York City where all three risks hit at once, and then some imponderables hit too.

Houses burned because firefighters couldn’t get to them and even when there, they couldn’t operate the necessary fire fighting equipment. Electricity substations exploded as record floods hit. Hospitals had to be evacuated as backup generators failed. Nuclear Power Stations in the path of the storm had to be shut down. Transportations systems also had to be shuttered. Utilities were unusable and so on.

Now that the storm passed and things subsided, we know the real jig begins because things will not get back to normal easily nor soon enough. Much of the infrastructure that makes modern mega cities possible, from utilities and transport systems to airports, subways, highways, tunnels, food logistics and communications, isn’t working, and won’t be operational for a while. The impacts will seep out globally, and affect other cities as a major central spoke and the financial and transport hub of America has shut down.

Oddly, the lesson of Sandy is the same as the lesson of the Euro zone crisis, the Arab Spring, and other recent events such as the Egyptian revolution : complex systems play by their own rules. You can’t manage them in a linear way. We live in a web of systems: if one falls, it takes others with it.

But why we can’t react properly and come together to solve this well known and well studied problem the old fashioned way?

Why can we not solve it as we have done in the past of our long history, by crowdsourcing the solutions and then choosing wise fearless leaders who can deliver them?

Because we are increasingly controlled by the mass Media apparatus and we are becoming increasingly stupid too. And that apparatus is controlled by the fossil fuel industry. The same industry that directly and indirectly funnelled more than a quarter billion US dollars in this Presidential campaign — so far to both candidates.

We are controlled and the sooner we understand that, the better to unshackle ourselves.

The reason we are so controlled is not that we don’t have the power to decide our own destiny, it is that we give that power away every minute of our lives. When something happens that we don’t like, we look for someone else to blame. When there is a problem in the world, we say: “What are they going to do about it”.

At which point — “they” who have created the problem in the first place, rush to supposedly respond to this demand by introducing a ‘solution’ of more centralisation of power, less mass responsibility and erosion of citizens’ freedom.
If you want to give more powers to the Energy sector, to the Fossil Fuel industry, to the Security agencies and the military industrial complex, and you want the public to demand you do it, then ensure there is more damages from freak weather, more crime, more violence and more terrorism, to name a few, and then it’s a cinch to achieve your aims.
Once the people are in fear of drowning, of being burgled, mugged or bombed, they will demand that you take their freedom away to protect them from what they have been manipulated to fear.  This technique is called in Political Science terms: “Solution as a Reaction to a manufactured Problem.”
Create the problem, encourage the reaction of the public that “something must be done”, and then offer the prefered solution.
It is summed up by the Romans as ‘Ordo Ab Chao’ — order out of chaos and its the perpetual aim of Empire. Yet sadly it’s a linearity and a rather useless one i our world ruled by Complexity and now increasingly by Chaos.
Yet it serves one constituency well. “Create the chaos and then offer the way to restore order.” Your order. The masses of “sheeple” are herded and directed by many and various forms of physical, psychological, emotional and mental control to the inevitable abattoir. For that they use the propaganda machines – TV and mass communications – and apply the old lessons of “divide and rule.” It is the only way the status quo admittedly used and oppressed people — since it could be done — easily.
Perhaps this is the sinister aim of the Fossil Fuel industry working in tandem with the Industrial Military Complex to allow people just so little freedom so they can decide all for them … and further relegate them to an unnatural life.
Just think of it.
Or just work towards a Society where our Energy choices don’t make us subservient to the fossil fuel companies, nor the military industrial complex and their business brethren.
Of course there are alternatives…

New York will pick itself up, dust itself down and get on with it.

But as climate change bites, there will be many more, much more frequent and far bigger storms, and other mega-events such as crop failures, political instability and financial crises. The knock-on effects will accumulate. What are we going to do then?

All complex networks are susceptible to collapse. How many body blows can ours take before it can no longer stand back up? Resilience may be difficult, expensive, or untenable, but as Sandy showed this week, we need a lot more of it.

Yet the better path would be to deal with the systemic roots of the problem to cure this and heal the planet. Nothing fancy. Just pure physics, empirical science and cutting edge Earth science needs to be relied upon in order to restore the balance of our atmosphere and arrest global warming.

In other words: “We simply need to get off fossil fuel burning as a way to get out energy.”

We must use whatever renewable sustainable resources – instead.

And we simply need to reckon and address the realities of climate change and take wise leadership action to put our economies on a sustainable path.

Put out house in order — is what I call it…


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