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Irma: considering the worst …

September 7th, 2017 · No Comments

The damage reports are coming in from Caribbean islands and the warnings are mounting for the Continental United States: Hurricane Irma could drive up the entire Atlantic Coast of Florida, a category 5 hurricane strike on Miami and the homes/work places of millions of American citizens.  Prior to the first rain drops hitting Miami, people are already bandying about that this could turn out (seen predictions of odds from 5-20%) as the most expensive (human-climate enhanced/driven) natural disaster in U.S. history — potentially on the order of $300 billion of direct impacts (without, for example, dealing with the financial impacts of the quite possible (likely) collapse of coastal real estate in Florida if not across the United States and even globally).

(update: courtesy of Climate Central)

While some might (secretly and/or openly) celebrate that Donald “global warming is a Chinese Hoax” Trump’s Mar-A-Lago lies directly in the storm’s path, the catastrophic nature of the potential impacts are nothing to joke about.

Let’s think about potential Storm Surge impacts.  Some people are bandying about that this could, dependent on many factors, reach a 15 foot storm surge. [Update: NWS is predicting 7-10 foot storm surge in Miami area; 5-8 foot Palm Beach) Just how much impact might this have?  Let’s use Climate Central’s sea-level rise tool to judge this.

First, what if it is a minimal storm and only has a two-foot storm surge.

A 2 foot sea level rise and Miami area

Not much impact to see …

Let’s go, however, to the maximum that Climate Central allows: a 10 foot sea level rise.

The Miami area and a 10-foot sea level rise

[UPDATE: Climate Central has visualizations of potential storm surge impacts. Rather daunting in terms of potential risks.]

See all that blue?  Essentially all of southern Florida would be under water with 10 feet of sea-level rise (SLR). While SLR is far from a perfect surrogate for storm surge impacts (storm surges are generally geographically limited (not that whole region) and temporarily short, unlike SLR’s (on human scale) permanence), it provides a window for understanding just how far saltwater might reach if Irma’s impacts on Florida are as bad as some fear it could be.

Consider this, the National Weather Service is already warning of “possible devastating impacts across south Florida …” with “locations [potentially] uninhabitable for weeks or months”.

The nation is being struck by a series of “unprecedented”, “never seen before”, “record-breaking” #climate catastrophes From Sea to Shining Sea.

The bill is mounting — in human lives, in money, in stressing society, in … — and Irma could add a massive increase to the mounting bill.

Those fighting climate action, denying climate change reality, often argue that ‘we can’t afford’ to invest perhaps $100-$200B per year to mitigate climate risks (with huge returns outside reduced risk) while we see ever mounting costs accruing from climate-related disasters and challenges.

Just from current catastrophes,

  • Harvey: $150B-$250B+
  • California Fires/Heat Wave: Unknown
  • Oregon/Montana/Washington State Heat Waves/Fires: Unknown
  • Irma: Potentially over $300B.

And, of course, this is ‘just’ counting direct US catastrophic events — ignoring disastrous situations around the world

The bills are coming in from our failure(s) to #ActOnClimate. Those bills will continue to mount … even as the imperative to #ActOnClimate mounts. Action — whether clean energy, energy efficiency, land-use changes, and/or — is required and the only path we have to gain any prospect of controlling how large tomorrow’s climate bills will become.



Storm surge risk

Potential Irma cost. Over $1 Trillion?

And, I thought $300B sounded high …


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Tags: Energy