Catastrophic flooding from Harvey continues today, as an all-time continental US record of nearly 52" of rainfall has been recorded, two of Houston's reservoirs have over-topped their dams, a levee has been breached South of Houston, thousands of rescues continue, tens of thousands are stranded in their homes and in shelters, and we are still days away from the water receding.
It's difficult to explain how much water has fallen. As noted on today's show, generally speaking, one inch of rain equals one foot of snow. So, if this were snow, it would be 50 feet deep in some places! Seth Borenstein reports "By the time the rain stops, Harvey will have dumped about 1 million gallons of water for every man, woman and child in southeastern Texas." Already, as of Tuesday, he notes, "15 trillion gallons of rain have fallen on a large area, and an additional 5 trillion or 6 trillion gallons are forecast by the end of Wednesday…That's enough water to fill all the NFL and Division 1 college football stadiums more than 100 times over."
DAVID ROBERTS, environment, energy and politics journalist from Vox.com, joins us to discuss the ongoing disaster — the type of which he has been warning about for more than a decade — and what we know and don't about the effect of climate change on this storm and its unprecedented rainfall. We discuss the failure of infrastructure officials, in Houston and elsewhere around the nation, to take appropriate measures to help mitigate, much less adapt to, a quickly changing climate that scientists have long warned will become more and more destructive thanks to the continuing man-made emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.
"Take climate change completely out of the equation, you still have a Gulf Coast that's subject to these mega-storms every so often, and is planning terribly for them," he notes. "In your Floridas, your Miamis and Houstons, they're just building everywhere they can, and they are all — institutionally, by habit and by law — extremely biased in favor of developing, including in these vulnerable areas." Will the destruction of Harvey finally force officials to take appropriate action?
"These disasters seem like a time — which are very rare in the US these days — when we set our petty squabbles aside and come together to help people," observes Roberts, before wondering: "What's going to happen when these kinds of crises are striking different regions of the country regularly? Or every year? Or multiple cities at once, as climate exacerbates all this and makes all these disasters worse? I wonder how our capacity for empathy is going to keep up."
We also discuss some new revelations regarding Exxon's decades long private knowledge and public denial of global warming, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry's recently commissioned Energy Dept. study on the effect of renewable energy on the power grid and its relationship, if any, to hastening the demise of the coal industry.
Then Desi Doyen joins us for Green News Report special coverage of the Harvey disaster and, speaking of Exxon, news of refinery shutdowns and toxic petrochemical spills amid the flooding at two of its units in Houston. Oh, and Donald Trump showed up in Texas today and reportedly turned the appearance into a rally "in front of a few hundred Trump supporters who somehow managed to know exactly where the president was doing the briefing," according to Dallas Morning News' pool reporters. "What a crowd, what a turnout," he said.
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