A remarkable blitz of extreme weather events during 2011 caused a total of 32 weather disasters costing at least $1 billion worldwide. Five nations experienced their most expensive weather-related natural disasters on record during 2011 — Thailand, Australia, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia.
According to insurance broker AON Benfield’s November Catastrophe Report, the U.S. was hit by no less than seventeen punishing multi-billion dollar extreme weather disasters in 2011; NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center official total is lower–twelve–but is likely to grow in number as additional damage statistics are tallied. Brazil experienced its deadliest weather-related natural disaster — a flash flood that killed 902 people in January, and the Philippines had its second deadliest flood ever, when Tropical Storm Washi killed over 1200 people in December.
It was difficult to pick a top ten list of top weather events of 2011 from this bewildering list of candidates, and I cheated a bit by giving a tie for tenth place, so that eleven events would make the list. My list of top weather events were chosen based on their impact to society and meteorological significance. Damage estimates and death tolls for the 2011 disasters were mostly taken from AON Benfield’s November Catastrophe Report, and records for damages and death tolls from disasters in previous years was taken from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED.)
Here, then, is this year’s top ten list. I’ve included links to some of my blogs posts made at the time of the disaster.
Bachmann: I Would Put Missile Systems ‘On Alert’ For Iran |
GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called for the U.S. to take a “very aggressive posture” toward Iran. Speaking on CBS’s Early Show, she said the U.S. should consider imposing a “blockade” against Iran and put missiles in the region “on alert” because of Iran’s nuclear program. She added that the U.S. should sell Israel weapons and equipment needed for the attack, but that “it wouldn’t be for the United States to tell Israel to do that.” In 2010, the Obama administration finalized a sale to Israel of the “bunker-buster bombs” Bachmann mentioned. Watch a video of the exchange on CBS:
My main opinion of Bradley Manning is that it sounds like he has pretty serious emotional problems and turned out not to be a particularly effective whistleblower, the former probably having quite a bit to do with the latter. And while there almost certainly will be a live-action movie about WikiLeaks and Manning’s relationship with the organization, and with Adrian Lamo, who busted him, I’m actually much more intrigued by this short animated film, Bradley Manning Had Secrets (go to the site to watch it), by filmmaker Adam Butcher.
The dialogue will be familiar to anyone who’s followed the story at all, it’s drawn directly from Manning and Lamo’s chat logs. But it’s amazing how much it adds to see those words in motion, transmogrifying into a pile of supply boxes, an image of Manning in women’s clothes, and to hear them spoken, full of stress and wistfulness. I’d be curious to know if anyone’s studying text-based communication, like texting and instant messages, to see if we’re either misunderstanding each other more without tone of voice and facial expressions, or if we’re sharpening our skills of interpretation to catch nuance and tone in the written word. Because of who each man was, and because of Lamo’s decision to string Manning along, Manning and Lamo’s conversations seemed designed to allow for significant misinterpretation of both the specifics of what the other was saying, and what the conversations meant to the person on the receiving end of the messages. But even without stakes that high, the way we talk to each other can get fraught without us even knowing it.
Riding high on a surge in the polls in the first Republican primary state, Iowa, presidential hopeful and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) vowed on a national Sunday talk show to attack Iran if it refused to cooperate on its nuclear program.
Pressed by NBC’s Meet The Press host David Gregory, Santorum distorted President Obama’s record on Iran and vowed that if Iran did not cooperate with his requests, he would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities with airstrikes. Gregory said, “The reality is there is no good option to disarm Iran.” Santorum replied, “Yes, there is,” and expanded on what he would do:
SANTORUM: And finally, I would be working openly with the state of Israel and I would be saying to the Iranians, you either open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors or we will degrade those facilities through air strikes – and make it very public that we are doing that. [...]
GREGORY: So you would lay out a red line, and if they passed it, air strikes by a President Santorum?
SANTORUM: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch.
GREGORY: Well, two previous presidents have said that. You would order air strikes if it became clear that they were going to…
In addition to making other belligerent proclamations — like restating that any Iranian or other nuclear scientist working with Iran “will be treated as an enemy combatant, like an Al Qaida member” — Santorum also badly distorted Obama’s record on Iran. While attacking Obama as weak on sanctions (for holding concerns that recent sanctions could hurt international cooperation and the U.S. economy), Santorum failed to note that the administration put together a coalition at the U.N. Security Council that imposed the only sanctions against Iran which have been shown to slow its nuclear progress.
Santorum also restated his desire to conduct covert operations against Iran in public. Gregory said, “There’s covert activity to — to set back their program by the Israelis, by the United States.” Santorum replied that the U.S. hasn’t done covert work. “Well, we know by the Israelis,” he said. “There’s no evidence the United States is at all complicit in working at that. That’s — I would be very direct that we would, in fact, and openly talk about this.”
In reality, neither the Israelis nor Americans take credit for covert work (by definition, which has eluded Santorum before). However, reports indicate that the U.S. does covert work related to Iran, and that they often do it hand-in-hand with Israel. Last year, the New York Times reported that Israel and the U.S. worked together on a computer virus that slowed Iran’s nuclear progress:
Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at [an Israeli nuclear lab], the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.
Just because Santorum says the Obama administration is not dealing with Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t make it true. But it seems Santorum does have a bold view about what he would do differently — namely attacking Iranian nuclear sites.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jan 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm
JR: From the perspective of putting global emissions on a path to avoid catastrophic climate change, Durban was a failure. But as I’ve said many times, that failure was “baked in” because the two key players — the U.S. and China — simply refuse to act to stop the planet from baking, among others reasons. That said, Durban was consequential, and Harvard’s Robert Stavins explains why.
However, something I did not discuss last month is that this third provision – the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” – has opened an important window. To explain what I mean requires a brief review of some key points from twenty years of history of international climate negotiations.
Wall Street Pit’s Ron Haruni points out that as the banking industry’s stocks plunged this year — with major megabanks like Bank of America facing uncertain fates — their executives have walked away with sky-high salaries.
Haruni cites the work of Rochdale Securities analyst Dick Bove and shows how banks have seen their value and stocks plunge by double-digits while executive compensation remains high:
According to data from Rochdale Securities analyst Dick Bove, the heads of major banking groups including JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Bank of America (BAC) are out-earning their employees and shareholders even as shares of bank stocks as a group lost about 26% this year.
Bove found that while the 23 financial institutions he follows saw their stock prices and market cap drop by more than 30% and 11%, respectively, bank CEO compensation averaged $7.74 million. That means the banking heads brought in 50 to 100 times the average worker. Take BofA’s CEO Brian Moynihan who will earn $2.26 million this year while his bank’s market value dropped 60% – the worst in Rochdale’s study.
Chase CEO Jamie Dimon will earn $41.9 this year — the most among the bank CEOs in Bove’s coverage list — for a bank that saw its stock lose roughly 23% this year. There’s also Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein whose compensation was nearly $22 million, while the investment bank he runs – Wall Street’s most powerful — lost more than 46% of its market cap.
Haruni notes that press “reports have suggested that compensation pools at seven of the biggest U.S. banks will total about $156 billion (including salaries, benefits and bonuses) in 2011, which would be 3.7% higher than last year’s record breaking number.”
The Lacey Family pond, ready to host a swimming party on Christmas
I just got back from visiting family in New Hampshire for the holidays, narrowly missing the rush of hot air spewed by presidential candidates as they move eastward for the state’s upcoming primaries after tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses.
Or maybe they’d been visiting the state too much already.
Because when I got home, instead of our usual Christmas hockey game, we joked about taking a swim together after brunch. The water had barely iced over, and after a day of strong rain, it disappeared altogether. On a few days, it was warm enough to wear a t-shirt.
One short bout of warm weather doesn’t make the case for climate change, which in any case is supported by “overwhelming evidence,” as NH scientists explain below. But it turns out, the data shows a substantial warming trend in New Hampshire, particularly on the east coast of the state, that is changing our winters:
Detailed analysis of data collected at four meteorological stations (Durham and Concord NH; Lawrence, MA; and Portland, ME) in and around the Piscataqua/Great Bay region show that since 1970, mean annual temperatures have warmed 1.3 to 1.7 degrees F, with the greatest warming occurring in winter (2.7 to 4.2 degrees F). Average minimum and maximum temperatures have also increased over the same time period, with minimum temperatures warming faster than mean temperatures.
Across the state, sap for syrup is getting tapped earlier, ice is receding faster, snow is on the ground less frequently, and state planners are getting ready for more extreme weather events.
However, despite the body of scientific evidence in the Northeastern U.S. and all around the country, the crop of Republican presidential hopefuls touring New Hampshire have made climate denial a central piece of their political ideology.
Ohio Earthquake Linked To Fracking Injection Wells |
On New Year’s Eve, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck northeastern Ohio, the second quake to strike the region in a week. Saturday’s earthquake, which occurred in an area not typically known for this type of natural disaster, is being traced back to fluid injection wells at a Youngstown fracking site. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, “the quake was the 11th over the last eight months in Mahoning County, all within two miles of the injection wells.” They also point out that injection wells have been linked to earthquakes in other states as well, including Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas. Two of the Ohio injection wells in question are now being shut down.
Tomorrow, when Iowa Republicans gather across the state to vote on their party’s presidential nominee, one important tool will be available to boost turnout: election day voter registration.
Though Iowa, unlike most states, permits those who haven’t registered (or just need to update their file after a move, for instance) before election day to do so when they show up at their precinct during regular elections, the Huffington Post notes that the Iowa GOP is in charge of setting the rules for its own caucuses.
Despite nationwide efforts to make voting more difficult, the Republican Party of Iowa decided to buck the trend and allow for on-site registration. In doing so, however, they necessarily undercut the argument being made by GOPers in many other states that election day registration (EDR) invites fraud. (Of course, voters are 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than commit fraud at the polls, and EDR actually helps prevent already-miniscule levels of fraud.)
Residents of just nine states currently enjoy EDR: Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. However, in a number of these states, the GOP-led war on voting has targeted EDR for repeal, most notably in Maine. Republicans in the Maine legislature passed a bill ridding the state of EDR, only to see the popular program reinstated by referendum in November by an overwhelming 61%-39% margin.
Election day registration will certainly help boost participation in tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses. A 2001 study found that states which employ election day registration (EDR) boost their voter turnout rate by 7 percentage points, without partisan gain for either side. The study found that poorer and less educated voters benefited the most from EDR. ThinkProgress spoke with a number of Maine voters who also lauded the ability to update their registration if they’ve recently moved, particularly because most residents are at work during the day and unable to visit the election clerk during normal business hours.
Had the Iowa GOP followed the lead of their brethren in Maine and elsewhere, thousands of Iowans who will cast their vote tomorrow with the help of election day registration could have been turned away from the polls.
Brad Friedman also points out that the Republican caucuses will not require voters to present a photo ID in order to cast their ballot, a requirement GOPers around the country pushed vigorously in 2011.