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    WASHINGTON – The number of U.S. voters who think climate change is caused by human activity has increased 13 percent in the last three years, according to a poll released Thursday.

    The Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 58 percent of the respondents said humans are responsible for climate change, whereas a 2015 Morning Consult survey found that 45 percent of the respondents said humans are responsible for climate.

    Meanwhile, 67 percent said they are concerned by the findings of a U.S. government report on climate change that was released last month.

    That includes 87 percent of Democrats, 47 percent of Republicans, and 65 percent of independent voters.

    The sampling included 1,975 registered voters and was conducted on Dec. 4. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

    The report said the U.S. economy could take a substantial hit if action is not soon taken to reduce carbon emissions.

    President Donald Trump has said he does not believe the findings of the report.


    CHICAGO — Days ahead of annual climate talks in Poland, the U.N. reports that climate change is partly to blame for three consecutive years of increased global hunger  a major setback after decades of improving food security.

    Cindy Holleman is a senior economist at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

    “This is what we call ‘chronic hunger.’ It’s not the big-scale emergencies of famine. Chronic hunger is more of those that throughout a year people have inadequate access to food, to really have a healthy, active life.”

    While chronic hunger has long been tied to conflicts and economic downturns, it’s time to add climate change to the mix, as seasons shift and temperatures grow more extreme and unpredictable.

    In Central America, droughts have decimated livestock and crops, and led to increased migration. In parts of Asia, meanwhile, storms and floods have jeopardized infrastructure and threatened farms that often form the backbone of the labor market.

    Drought-resistant seeds and improved tilling techniques could lessen that damage, but technology isn’t a silver bullet.

    “In some regions, there are limits to adaptation. There are areas that are too marginalized  they keep being hit by drought and insufficient rainfall  where it’s not really sustainable, even with technological solutions.”

    In parts of the Horn of Africa, for instance, farming may not be viable again. But abandoning agriculture across wide swaths of the planet  where in many low-income countries, as much as 80 percent of populations remain in rural areas  isn’t an option either.

    “It’s not practical to say we’re going to turn everything into high-production agriculture, big corporations producing food and move all the people to urban areas. There’s too many people whose livelihoods depend on it.”

    The only solution, then, will be to stop the worst effects of climate change before they occur. To the climate negotiators gathering in Poland: No pressure.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday tersely rejected the findings of a major government study projecting massive damage to the U.S. economy if climate change continues to go unchecked.

    “I don’t believe it,” Trump said from the White House South Lawn. “I don’t believe it.”

    The National Climate Assessment was released on Friday, showcasing research compiled by 13 government agencies.

    The report states that growing emissions could cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century in addition to spurring severe, life-threatening changes to the environment.

    Trump said Monday that he has read some of the report and that it was “fine.”

    The president’s attitude drew criticism from environmental groups, with the Sierra Club noting that the president has already taken steps to protect his property from climate change.

    “Trump is ignoring the alarm bells to protect our country from climate change, yet at the same time he is building seawalls in Scotland to protect his golf course from the rising sea,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “Trump clearly understands the economic threat of climate disruption, at least as when it comes to his pocketbook, but he just doesn’t care enough to protect the American people.”

    NEW YORK — I like it hot. I am only comfortable at about 80 degrees, so at first glance, climate change and the warming of the planet seem welcome.

    That is until I begin to understand the fine print. There have been two climate change reports recently. One of them was released in October by the United Nations, and the other was released by the United States on Friday, during this weekend’s long holiday.

    The United Nations report issued in October was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The press release on the report says: “One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1oC of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I.

    “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5 oC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.

    Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5oC, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be.

    Two degrees centigrade might not seem like a lot, but it converts into more than 30o Fahrenheit. Another way to think about even a one-degree change in Fahrenheit is the way you feel even if you have a slight fever. Where the normal body temperature is 97 to 99oC, think about how you feel when your body temperature is even one degree above what your normal is. You feel rotten. So imagine how the coral feels if it gets overheated

    This week’s United State report, although issued when most people were with their families and not paying attention, drew people to the reality of climate change. It is titled “Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II” and written by 13 U.S. government agencies. The report is mandated by Congress, but it is the first to be issued in the Trump administration.

    The National Academy of Sciences reviewed the report, and one of the members said this: “We have wasted 15 years of response time. If we waste another five years of response time, the story gets worse. The longer you wait, the faster you have to respond and the more expensive it will be.”

    The Washington Post summarized what might happen in the next 25 years: “Key crops, including corn, wheat and soybeans, would see declining yields as temperatures rise during the growing season. The city of Phoenix, which experienced about 80 days per year over 100 degrees around the turn of the century, could see between 120 and 150 such days per year by the end of the century, depending on the pace of emissions.”

    Then there was this from the report: “Global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 [degrees] from 1901 to 2016, and observational evidence does not support any credible natural explanations for this amount of warming. Instead, the evidence consistently points to human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse or heat-trapping gases, as the dominant cause.”

    President Trump tweeted out this week when New York expected it to be one of coldest Thanksgivings: “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

    That is why it is called climate change. The fires that happened in California, the flooding that is taking place on the coasts, are the result of climate change. The Brookings Institution said: “The economic cost of climate change is high: an annual $12 billion increase in electricity bills due to added air conditioning; $66 billion to $106 billion worth of coastal property damage due to rising seas; and billions in lost wages for farmers and construction workers forced to take the day off or risk suffering from heat stroke or worse.”

    We need to take the reports seriously. It doesn’t matter if the report is issued by the United Nations or the United States. If we are serious about providing a world for the next generation, we have to understand that we are heating up the oceans and the snow on the mountains to a place from which we can’t turn back. We need action now.

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Friday the Trump administration’s request to intervene in a high-profile climate change lawsuit in Oregon.

    Last month, Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily postponed the scheduled Nov. 5 trial following an appeal from the Justice Department, which had asked the high court to review a lower court’s ruling that allowed the case to move forward. The temporary stay was intended to give the plaintiffs an opportunity to respond to specific issues raised by the government.

    A majority of the justices decided against intervening in the lawsuit, however, after reviewing the response. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch would have blocked it. A new trial date has not been set.

    The lawsuit filed on behalf of young activists is seeking a court order that would require the government to develop a national climate policy aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions, halting fossil fuel production and creating a “climate system capable of sustaining human life.”

    The plaintiffs allege the government knew for decades that carbon emissions were endangering the planet yet continued to allow the production of fossil fuels, creating and worsening the effects of climate change for future generations. The plaintiffs contend the actions violated their constitutional right to life, liberty and property.

    The government has tried repeatedly to dismiss the case, arguing that U.S. environmental policies should be decided through the political process, not legislated from the bench.

    Sen Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.) briefs reporters March 20, 2018 (Photo ©2018 Doug Christian)

    WASHINGTON – One day after Hurricane Michael became the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Florida Panhandle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Republicans to acknowledge the effects of climate change.

    “At some point, we have to acknowledge that the intensity of these storms is much greater than in past years and is a symptom of a changing climate,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a floor speech on Thursday.

    He added: “Climate change is real, it is being driven by human activity, it is happening right now. These are facts; they are not in dispute.”

    When Michael made landfall on Panhandle beach cities Wednesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) rated it just shy of Category 5. Winds up to 155 miles per hour were reported at that time. The hurricane has since been downgraded to Category 1.

    Flooding and pounding rain have devastated the panhandle as well as parts of southeastern and southwestern Georgia. The Carolinas have experienced heavy rain.

    Two people are reported dead from the storm, a man in Florida and an 11-girl old girl in Georgia. More than 300,000 are reportedly without power.

    Republicans say climate change exists but that there is not sufficient evidence to definitively state that human activity causes it.

    The general consensus among scientists is that excessive carbon use has exacerbated the effects of climate change.

    Courtesy: IPCC

    UNITED NATIONS  A new U.N. climate report confirms scientists’ worst fears: The world may be just 12 years away from triggering severe and irreversible effects of global warming that a 2015 climate treaty aimed to thwart.

    To prevent the most dire consequences of that warming, the report said the world needs to embark on “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in energy production, land use, infrastructure and industry.

    Such an effort, which some have compared to the U.S. mobilization during World War II, would need to play out in every country at the same time, and without delay, something the report says has “no documented historic precedent.”

    Benjamin Preston leads the Infrastructure Resilience and Environmental Policy Program at the RAND Corporation.

    “If we haven’t had enough wake-up calls before, this is certainly a big one.”

    But even herculean efforts wouldn’t stop many of global warming’s long-term effects. Sea level rise, for instance, could continue for centuries even once carbon emissions are capped, since warmer air will keep melting ice sheets and glaciers.

    “We’ve somewhat locked ourselves into a significant amount of climate change and therefore climate consequences that have to be managed.”

    But the increasing inevitability of major climate change doesn’t mean steps to limit it are in vain.

    When heads of state signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, they pledged to cap warming since the pre-industrial era at 2℃, and they put in italics that they’d love if warming could be capped at 1.5℃.

    Click above to read the IPCC's special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C
    Click above to read the IPCC’s special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C

    If warming hits 2℃ instead of 1.5℃, twice the number of species would lose their habitats, the Antarctic ice sheet would be doomed to irreversible melting, coral reefs would damaged beyond saving and twice the number of humans would face water crises.

    In other words, greater ambition now will buy the planet precious extra time to adapt.

    “That’s really the big challenge not just for cities and human beings but also for natural ecosystems  giving them the time to adjust, to make investments, to migrate, to implement these changes  the more time we can buy human and natural systems to do that, the better off we’re going to be.”

    An estimated 95 percent of structures on the island of Barbuda were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Irma. Courtesy: ShelterBox

    “Wake” is a weekly foreign policy broadcast produced by Talk Media News and hosted by Luke Vargas from U.N. Headquarters in New York.

    The following is a complete transcript of Episode 21, “Natural Disasters and Climate Resilience.”

    Subscribe to weekly episodes of “Wake” on iTunes or Google Play, and follow the broadcast on Twitter @WakeOnAir.


    From Hurricanes Irma to Jose to Maria, an active Atlantic storm season has ravaged wide swaths of the Caribbean.

    The storms themselves receive wall-to-wall media coverage, but when they pass, the story of reconstruction quickly drops from the front page, and post-storm assessments become the stuff of academics and city planners, not the public at large.

    And yet, climate scientists tell us the storms will get worse. Should we be using natural disasters as an entry point into a discussion about climate change and adaptation?

    We’re taking on those questions next, on Wake.

    Thanks for joining us, we’re coming to you today from U.N. headquarters in New York.

    Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda is interviewed by Talk Media News' Luke Vargas at the United Nations.
    Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda is interviewed by Talk Media News’ Luke Vargas at the United Nations.

    We’ve got a lot to cover as we explore the linkages between natural disasters and climate change, so let’s get right to our guest.

    In studio with me at the United Nations is Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. Prime Minister, thank you for being with us and welcome to Wake.

    Gaston Browne: Thank you.

    Luke Vargas: Your country sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. And it’s now been affected by Hurricane Maria also. This is just a pattern of storms hitting the Eastern Caribbean. You were just on the islands. Can you describe for our listeners the situation that you are seeing there now.

    Gaston Browne: Well first of all, let me explain that Antigua escaped unscathed. So it is business as usual in Antigua, which is the larger of the two islands, and that is the island that really generates most of the revenue for the twin-island state.

    So I want to make it abundantly clear that Antigua is open for business. It is business as usual. Unfortunately, our sister island Barbuda, which is approximately 30 miles north of us, was totally decimated by Hurricane Irma.

    You may recognize that Irma is easily the most ferocious hurricane to have stormed its way through the Caribbean. And it was very unfortunate that Barbuda was in its way. I mean, we had storm force or hurricane force winds in excess of 230 miles per hour.

    An aerial view of destruction to the island of Barbuda caused by Hurricane Irma. Courtesy: Pan American Health Organization
    An aerial view of destruction to the island of Barbuda caused by Hurricane Irma. Courtesy: Pan American Health Organization

    Now, any country that would have experienced that level of wind, that force clearly would have had immense damage. I mean, we have seen for example, storms of lesser size and magnitude and power creating significant damage in the U.S., so you can imagine a small island, a flat island without any hills to create a barrier for the winds, sustaining hurricane force winds up to 230 miles per hour [there] is no way Barbuda would not have suffered immense damage.

    Well unfortunately, 95 percent of the properties on the island were damaged or demolished. There were some properties that were just completely demolished. All of the public institutions were damaged and are now non-functional.

    We also have a situation in which the entire utilities and telecommunications infrastructure was destroyed. There is no running water on the island. The island, in essence, is just a manger wreck, and presently it is uninhabitable.

    We believe that within the next probably three weeks we can start to systematically move people back onto the island. As we seek to rebuild, five percent of the homes are salvageable, so we will certainly rebuild those homes. And there are some, too, that are damaged that we refer to as tier-two properties that we should be able to repair as well.

    So the whole idea is to get the Barbudans as soon as practical but not expose them to any potential for risk of disease.

    Luke Vargas: These hurricanes as they pass through the Caribbean receive a lot of attention here in the United States in the media. But as I watched that coverage it became very clear to me that in many ways the United States is fortunate. We are 1,500 miles further West than your country. We have more time to prepare, more places to go.

    As someone who is responsible for the safety of your people and your island being there just sort of on the front line of these storms. Is that a responsibility that weighs on you?

    Gaston Browne: Well it does. And luckily for us, prior to Irma, myself personally and other officials on Antigua had warned the residents. We’d asked them to batten down and take all the necessary precautions to secure property, to secure their valuables and more importantly, to secure lives. And I have to say that if they had not heeded the warnings of the authorities, the amount of fatalities would have been more.

    You’d recognize that even though Barbuda was totally decimated, we had only one fatality, and I think it is partially as a result of the extent of the preparedness.

    We do not have the options that you have here in terms of moving to other states, but in terms of ensuring that properties are properly secured, and to clean drains and so on, to remove let’s say branches, hanging branches, over the electric wires and so on. Those are things we do routinely and I can say that we were certainly in a state of preparedness.

    Hurricane Irma (blue line) passed directly over the island of Barbuda. Courtesy: CDEMA
    Hurricane Irma (blue line) passed directly over the island of Barbuda. Courtesy: CDEMA

    Antigua had gusts up to about 70 miles per hour, but we were so well-prepared that the damage was minimal. So there is significant resilience, certainty in the case of Antigua. We had the unfortunate situation back in 1995, in which we were struck by Hurricane Luis, and since then the building code has been made robust so that the properties are more climate resilient.

    I have to admit that rebuilding primarily for storms between 150 to 200 miles per hour, but Hurricane Irma has actually brought to the fore a new reality of storms now which have gusts have in excess of 230 miles per hour, which means that we will have to step up, especially in Barbuda, based on the extent of the destruction in Barbuda.

    We have to now ensure that the building code in Barbuda is even more robust than Antigua, and perhaps any other country within the Caribbean, because the island is so flat that the extent of climate resilience has to be greater.

    So for example, I’m of the view that wooden properties are not for Barbuda. They should be invariably concrete properties and possibly with concrete roofs. They have to be built several feet above the ground at least, to ensure there is no or little flooding. There are certainly steps that have to be taken in order to increase the resilience of Barbuda going forward.

    Luke Vargas:  Within your government I’m sure there are conversations – as you just alluded to – about how to protect your island from a changing climate. Is the thinking within your government that these storms are going to be more frequent and more severe?

    Well clearly, these are consequences of climate change, and if the industrialized countries continue to be profligate in the use of fossil fuels, I believe that these storms will become even more ferocious. And clearly the frequency will also increase.

    So it means that countries in the Caribbean will become far more vulnerable. So that is why we need to build the capacity so that we have more resilient buildings, more resilient infrastructure. Failing which, we will just suffer from repeat damage and will have to be constantly raising resources to fix damage and infrastructure and institutions.

    We’ve had a very vexing issue with the international community in that all countries in the Caribbean are considered to be middle-income countries and generally are precluded from developmental finance and concessional loans. So that in itself places us at a disadvantaged, because many of our countries have had to borrow at commercial rates in order to rebuild. So we have been making the call for this – you’d probably refer to this as a ridiculous criteria, a clearly flawed criterion of capital income – to be removed.

    And especially in the case of disaster, I can’t see how you can have the level of carnage that exists in the Caribbean today and wealthy countries are saying they cannot assist because you have some artificial criterion in capital income that precludes them from assisting. That is not in keeping with the type of human cooperation that is required, especially considering that we all have a common humanity.

    We all live on a shared space called planet earth. And we definitely need to ensure that there is cooperation at all levels, in all hemispheres, in all regions and global cooperation in order to have a better world.

    An overturned ambulance on the island of Barbuda. Courtesy: Pan American Health Organization
    An overturned ambulance on the island of Barbuda. Courtesy: Pan American Health Organization

    Luke Vargas: Finally, Mr. Prime Minister, I know your nation is still dealing with the immediate aftermath of these storms, and it will be difficult plain and simple to find money for a rebuilding effort. But as you look toward that, is the plan to rebuild as much as possible as quickly as possible, or is a storm like this a moment, an opportunity to begin to re-imagine and re-engineer your country for the future? Is this something you think this is an opportunity to discuss?

    Gaston Browne: Absolutely. Both. Clearly it’s an opportunity to recalibrate the way we do things, to ensure that going forward that we build a climate-resilient and certainly a green Barbuda.

    The intent now is to ensure that Barbuda becomes a totally green island and we have made significant progress in that regard. We’ve had a grant of a few million dollars, so far, from the U.A.E., and I’m pretty sure that this is one such opportunity that we’ll be able to exploit and to implement to ensure that we have a green Barbuda, one in which we will reduce our carbon footprint, and one in which we will build a more resilient Barbuda going forward.

    And clearly the opportunities to build a more resilient infrastructure, to probably put the electric lines underground, to have concrete homes, possibly homes that are built on pylons that go into the bedrock, properties that are elevated maybe two, three feet above the ground and properties that at the same time may have concrete roofs so we can sustain stronger winds, which will evidently be the norm unless we get greater responsibility from the developed countries, unless they will take responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint, to understand that ultimately their profligate use of fossil fuel is actually hurting other countries.

    And the irony about it is, not only you may have a few of these states in denial, but they do not help with the rebuilding and they find all sorts of reasons and impediments for why they might not assist. That is not keeping in the spirit of human cooperation. And ultimately we are seeking a better world – one in which all peoples can benefit equitably from the resources of the earth, and one in which all of the people’s will enjoy good living standards. We cannot have the type of inequity which exists today, in which some countries control the greater or the majority of the resources of the planet and at the same time are refusing to share. They have an obligation to share.

    Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, addresses the U.N. General Assembly. September 21, 2017. UN Photo/Cia Pak
    Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, addresses the U.N. General Assembly. September 21, 2017. UN Photo/Cia Pak

    The reality is they did not create the oil, the gold, the diamonds, et cetera. They happen to have custody of them, but they must share. And this is not a situation in which we are begging. We are not here with a begging bowl asking the United States to support us on a begging basis. We intend to work for what we need and what we want.

    But at the same time, they have to understand that we have certain vulnerabilities and that we need a level playing field. Just as the United States and other developed countries can borrow on the capital markets at three percent, we must have a similar opportunity.

    You cannot force a small island state into a situation whereby even in a humanitarian disaster they have to borrow at 10 percent. There’s just something grossly inequitable about that. There’s absolutely no justice in that type of behavior. And one of the opportunities is for us to advocate for a recalibration of the whole global financial architecture and to carve out a space for small island states.

    Luke Vargas: Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, thank you so much for being with us today and best of luck to you and to your country.

    Gaston Browne: Thank you.


    Luke Vargas: We’re looking this week at natural disasters and climate change adaptation, trying to figure out when exactly we’re going to talk about the latter, instead of just focusing on the former.

    Rachel Cleetus is the lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    Rachel, thanks so much for being with us and welcome to Wake.

    Rachel Cleetus: Thank you very much for having me.

    Luke Vargas: Rachel, you listened to the interview just a moment ago with Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, in which we shifted pretty quickly from disaster response to climate change adaptation. That is a transition that I don’t feel like I hear much in the U.S. media. Do you think the segue between topics to be an appropriate or necessary one?

    Rachel Cleetus: Well, as you said and as Prime Minister Browne said, this has been a terrible hurricane season for the Caribbean and the Gulf and the Southeast of the U.S.

    We’ve seen three record storms back to back – Harvey, Irma, now Maria hitting Puerto Rico in a devastating way – and so moments like this, obviously the immediate attention is on disaster relief, getting people to safety, making sure their emergency needs are met, but it would be irresponsible not to talk about, what are the things we could have done better going into the storm in terms of preparedness and understanding what the underlying causes are that are making these storms worse.

    And there are many contributing factors, but there is no doubt that climate change is contributing to greater risks of these very intense storms and, as well, the heavy rainfall that’s accompanying them. So understanding those climate factors is a very important part of the discussion right now, alongside the longer-term, how do we rebuild stronger and safer?

    An aerial view of houses in Puerto Rico without roofs due to the strong winds brought on by Hurricane Maria. Courtesy: Yuisa Rios/FEMA
    An aerial view of houses in Puerto Rico without roofs due to the strong winds brought on by Hurricane Maria. Courtesy: Yuisa Rios/FEMA

    Luke Vargas: Rachel, the prime minister listed some ways Antigua and Barbuda might rebuild to be resilient to future storms. These were concrete homes, concrete roofs, pylons going down into the bedrock, putting electric wires underground.

    What do you make of these sorts of reconstruction strategies? And were more money available to him, what are some further steps you’d recommend?

    Rachel Cleetus: Well there’s no doubt that those are common-sense measures that can be taken, the hardening type of measures to make sure that infrastructure that people depend on is better protected going forward. But as you heard clearly during the interview, there’s no doubt that rising carbon emissions are contributing to worsening climate change and he made the point repeatedly that wealthier nations that have a greater responsibility for these rising carbon emissions really need to address the underlying causes as well, even as we’re doing these measures to rebuild back safer.

    I will say that one of the very important things that we can do is make sure that as we’re investing in these types of very expensive and important measures going forward, that we’re doing it in light of the growing risks.

    So, we know that around the world, including here in the U.S., we have a lot of people located in places that are at great risk of floods and sea-level rise, and we need to be asking these questions: does it make sense to rebuild, business as usual, as we were before?

    Luke Vargas: Rachel, the Prime Minister said Antigua and Barbuda can’t finance adaptation to climate change, that the country as very much at risk, but it’s classified as middle income and can’t get these special, low interest loans.

    If that’s right, it sounds like the international financial system simply isn’t geared toward global rebuilding and retrofitting of the sort that is needed now and will increasingly be needed now and will continue to be needed in the future – 

    Rachel Cleetus: Well, what he described is actually a global challenge and it’s a challenge here in the U.S., because these kind of disasters really bring into relief the inequities that already exist in our current economic and financial systems. So here in the U.S. we have communities in Houston, in Louisiana, in parts of Florida – less well-off folks who are being hit particularly hard by these hurricanes – and don’t have the means and wherewithal to get back on their feet without some type of assistance.

    And we’ve seen with previous disasters like Katrina that often times those serious impacts linger for many, many years and many of those people had to leave New Orleans, weren’t able to find jobs or rebuild their homes where they were. So the equity challenge related to these disasters is real, it’s significant, and we’ve got to do better.

    Soldiers with the Puerto Rican National Guard work to clear power lines downed by Hurricane Maria. Courtesy: Puerto Rico Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Wilma Orozco Fanfan, 113th MPAD
    Soldiers with the Puerto Rican National Guard work to clear power lines downed by Hurricane Maria. Courtesy: Puerto Rico Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Wilma Orozco Fanfan, 113th MPAD

    Luke Vargas: You’ve shifted us nicely to the United States. As we look to the federal side of the equation, what can Washington do to modify its disaster response and disaster prevention programs so that they will in the future factor in climate change and, after a disaster, promote resilient reconstruction?

    Rachel Cleetus: Well, the first thing to recognize is that our ability to limit harms from these types of disasters begins way before the disaster hits. It’s the money we spend before on preparedness and making sure we’ve got the resources to communities ahead of time that really matters when the disaster hits.

    It’s why we’re seeing a place like Florida, where the power outages are severe, but power is coming back, versus a place like Puerto Rico where, because of under-investment in the power infrastructure, people are saying it could take months in some cases to get power back.

    So preparedness – and that money comes from agencies like FEMA and HUD – those dollars need to flow to communities that are on the front lines of these disaster-prone areas.

    The other thing that we need to do is make sure that as we’re rebuilding and recovering, that we’re building to more resilient standards. So in the U.S. here we have something called the Federal Flood Risk Management Standards, that was recently updated and then was rolled back by the Trump administration.

    Something like that is really critical to making sure that as we rebuild, we’re building in a more resilient way.

    And then we also have to make sure that as we go forward, we’re giving people options so that, if they’re in a very high-risk area, they have a way of maybe retreating to a lower-risk place. So options like home buyout programs that would allow people to recoup some of their investment but leave places that are very high-risk. We’ve got to start thinking about this in a more holistic, systematic way.

    Members of the Florida National Guard clear furniture from a home in Big Pine Key, Florida that was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    Members of the Florida National Guard clear furniture from a home in Big Pine Key, Florida that was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

    Luke Vargas: Rachel, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that President Trump’s decision to pull out the Paris Agreement really signaled a lack of interest in trying to stop climate change. But from another angle, Trump owns real estate, says he wants to run government like a business – does that not create a possible point of leverage to argue that climate change adaptation is simply good business?

    Rachel Cleetus: The reality here is we have had a terrible disaster season this year – these hurricanes, the wildfires. This is adding up to billions of dollars of cost, economic costs, let alone all the other costs to people – the health, the mental anguish, etc. – so any government that’s responsible needs to recognize that these are real concerns, these are not simply environmental concerns. This is of prime economic significance for our country that we take on these growing risks from climate change.

    So yes, the real estate lens is one of them. But there are many other things that we need to be thinking about.

    We have a lot of people now suffering from the harms of these disasters. Where are they going to get help? And how are they going to rebuild their lives? And how are we going to make sure that this happens in an equitable way so that those who are politically and economically disempowered don’t get left behind?

    We very much hope and need the president to take these issues seriously.  

    Luke Vargas: Rachel Cleetus is the lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Rachel, thanks so much for being with us.

    Rachel Cleetus: Thank you very much for having me.

    Luke Vargas: I’m Luke Vargas, signing off. Join us again next week on Wake.

    WASHINGTON—A majority of voters believe that climate change has at least partially contributed to the hurricanes that have hit the U.S. this month, according to a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll released Wednesday.

    When asked “how much did climate change contribute to recent natural disasters, such as hurricanes that impacted parts of Texas and Louisiana?”, 34 percent said “a lot” and 27 percent said “some.”

    In contrast, 9 percent said “not much,” 12 percent said “not at all” and 18 percent said they do not know or have no opinion.

    When asked “how concerned are you with the issue of climate change and the affect it’s having on the U.S. environment?”, 41 percent said that they were “very concerned,” 26 percent said “somewhat concerned,” 15 percent said “not too concerned” and 10 percent said that they were “not concerned at all.”

    Nine percent said they did not know or had no opinion.

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt told CNN last week that the emphasis for the federal government should be focusing on immediate disaster relief rather than the cause of the hurricanes.

    “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” Pruitt said.

    Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert told reporters on Monday that the administration is taking the effects of climate change, but not the cause, into account.

    “I will tell you that we continue to take seriously the climate change — not the cause of it, but the things that we observe,” Bossert said.

    Trump has not stated whether or not he believes climate change contributed to the recent storms.

    Wednesday’s poll was conducted among 1976 registered voters between September 7 and 11. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

    Climate change will drown cities, but fewer storms mean more wetlands
    A study from the Union of Concerned Scientists contends that more than 90 U.S. coastal communities—mostly in Louisiana and Maryland—are facing inundation from rising seas caused by climate change, and the number could jump to 170 over the next 20 years. By coincidence, the UCS study was published the same day that a 2,200 square mile iceberg, nearly the size of Delaware, broke off an ice shelf in Antarctica. In another coincidence, the U.S. Geological Survey cited a lack of major hurricanes as the likely reason for slowing the loss of coastal wetlands in Louisiana.

    Federal prisons are bursting with drug criminals
    Research from the U.S. Sentencing Commission suggests that the for-profit prison industry is making a killing off of drug law offenders. Although the research was confined to inmates in the federal prison system, the findings may be relatable to state prisons which are administered by state agencies or for-profit companies. In the federal system, the illegal drug trade accounts for 48% of offenses that lead to prison and most of the drug offenders are young, minority men. Men make up 93% of the federal prison population, 35% are Hispanic, 34.5% are black, and 27% are white.

    U.S. entry denied to scholar affiliated with Iran militia
    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty revealed that Seyed Dehnavi, the Iranian medical researcher who was prevented from entering the U.S. by border agents, was identified by his former students as the head of the Basij militia at Sharif University in Tehran. RFE described the Basij as a military force that is used by Iran as a tool of repression. U.S. news media reported that Dehnavi was a cancer researcher with a valid visa who was on his way to work at the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital.

    La Raza shows off its new brand
    At the close of its annual conference held in Phoenix this week, the National Council of La Raza announced that it had formally changed its name to UnidosUS. Its mission of promoting citizenship and employment opportunities for Latino people remains the same. The organization said its new brand will reinforce the role of Latinos as a unifying force by shedding La Raza, meaning The Race, and adopting Unidos, meaning United.

    Girlfriend of Craigslist robber is sentenced
    Ashley Jones, 27, of Memphis, Tenn., was given a six-month sentence for being the straw purchaser of a handgun that was used in an armed robbery, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said. Jones bought the weapon at a gun store, and gave false information by claiming she was not acquiring the gun for another person. The gun was used in the robbery of $16,000 from two victims who were lured to a location after arranging to purchase a vehicle through a Craigslist ad.

    Pair sentenced for creating fake law firm to “help” homeowners
    Ronald Rodis, 52, of Long Beach, Calif., and Charles Farris, 56, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., were given 41-month and 47-month prison sentences, respectively, and ordered to pay $7.3 million in restitution for a multi-million dollar fraudulent mortgage modification scheme that involved the creation of a phony law firm, the Department of Justice said. Rodis and Farris kept secret that the Rodis Law Group’s true owner was Bryan D’Antonio, a felon who was prohibited from conducting any business that engaged in telemarketing or misrepresenting the services it would provide. In April, D’Antonio was given a 97-month sentence and ordered to pay $3.8 million in restitution.

    No jail for New Jersey “bridgegate” figure
    David Wildstein, 55, a former official of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority who was one of three political operatives who created a traffic jam to retaliate against a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election, will not be going to jail. Instead, Wildstein was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service. Wildstein avoided jail, the Department of Justice said, by providing information that led to jail sentences for his accomplices.

    Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

    The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Wednesday, July 12