Calamities are familiar to the people of Pakistan who have struggled through several catastrophic earthquakes, including those in 2005, 2013, and 2015 (to name the most damaging), as well as the horrendous floods of 2010. However, nothing could prepare the fifth most populated country in the world for this summer’s devastating events, which began with high temperatures and political chaos followed by unimaginable flooding. Cascading frustration with the Pakistani state defines the public mood. Taimur Rahman, the general secretary of the Mazdoor Kisan Party (‘Workers and Peasants Party’), told Peoples Dispatch that after the 2010 floods, there was ‘enormous outrage about the fact that the government had not done anything to ensure that… when there is an overflow of water, it can be controlled’.
Devastating floods are occurring across Pakistan due to monsoon rains. Since June, more than 1,000 people have been killed by floods, with thousands more being displaced and having to go without food. Capitalism makes these disasters the new normal, with workers, particularly those of the Global South, bearing the brunt. Just this weekend, tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes in Northern Pakistan due to floods. There are many more that still need to be rescued. More than 33 million people have been affected over the past few weeks, millions of homes have been destroyed, and infrastructure such as roads and bridges have been damaged or destroyed along with millions of acres of farmland. This is not merely just one or a few bad storms.
Climate science is clear: Floodwaters are a growing risk for many American cities, threatening to displace not only people and housing but also the land-based pollution left behind by earlier industrial activities. In 2019, researchers at the U.S. Government Accountability Office investigated climate-related risks at the 1,571 most polluted properties in the country, also known as Superfund sites on the federal National Priorities List. They found an alarming 60% were in locations at risk of climate-related events, including wildfires and flooding. As troubling as those numbers sound, our research shows that that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Many times that number of potentially contaminated former industrial sites exist. Most were never documented by government agencies, which began collecting data on industrially contaminated lands only in the 1980s.
When scientists say climate change will bring flooding, most people think of big coastal cities: New Orleans, New York, Newport News. They picture TV coverage of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, crashing waves and blown-away beaches. But across the U.S., flooding is arguably the most universal climate menace, threatening more than low-lying coastal cities and sandy beaches. The danger comes from saturated Great Plains, overwhelmed Appalachian creeks, and washed-out wildfire-ravaged hillsides, and it defies all forms of struggling infrastructure. Nearly 15 million properties across the country are at substantial risk of flooding in the next 30 years. Flooding is also — in part due to the fact that it can happen anywhere — the most expensive natural disaster, racking up $100 billion in damages in 2021 alone.
About 2,000 official and potential Superfund sites—sites contaminated by extremely hazardous chemicals—are located within 25 miles of the East or Gulf Coast. As sea levels rise, many of these toxic sites are at risk of flooding. Millions of people live near these sites, and flooding could bring them into contact with hazardous chemicals. The areas near Superfund sites are disproportionately populated by communities of color and low-income communities. Yet the Trump administration in 2017 rescinded an executive order requiring consideration of flooding at these sites and canceled research into the problem. If leaders continue to sideline science when making decisions about climate change and about Superfund sites, they will put the health of millions of the country’s most vulnerable people at risk.
When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita swept through Louisiana in 2005, cities like Houston, Dallas, and Baton Rouge took in hundreds of thousands of displaced residents—many of whom eventually stayed in those cities a year later. Where evacuees have moved since hasn’t been closely tracked, but data from those initial relocations are helping researchers predict how sea level rise might drive migration patterns in the future. Climate experts expect some 13 million coastal residents in the U.S. to be displaced by the end of this century. A new PLOS One study gives some indication of where climate migrants might go. “A lot of cities not at risk of sea of level rise will experience the effect of it,” says Bistra Dilkina, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California, who led the study.
The signs are ever with us. In particular, in the past month, scientists have warned that it appears as though the Greenland Ice Sheet has experienced a record melt year. This year alone, it lost enough ice to raise global sea levels by more than one millimeter. Researchers told the BBC they are “astounded” by the acceleration in melting and expressed fear for coastal cities in the future. One scientist told the BBC, “So, we’re losing Greenland — it’s really a question of how fast,” and said Greenland is already facing a melting “death sentence.” Meanwhile, scientists are warning people who live in coastal areas to get out. It’s not a question of whether they’ll need to move, researchers emphasize in a recent study — it’s a question of when.
LONDON, 3 September, 2019 − What are now considered once-in-a-hundred-years floods are on the increase in the US. Later this century, they could happen to northern coastal states every year. And even in the more fortunate cities along the south-east Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico coasts, the once-in-a-century floods will happen a lot more often: somewhere between every 30 years and every year. In a second study, a team of distinguished scientists argues that the US should face the inevitable and begin to plan for a managed, strategic retreat from its own coasts.
How many times will we rebuild Florida’s cities, Houston, coastal New Jersey, New Orleans and other population centers ravaged by storms lethally intensified by global warming? At what point, surveying the devastation and knowing more is inevitable, will we walk away, leaving behind vast coastal dead zones? Will we retreat even further into magical thinking to cope with the fury we have unleashed from the natural world? Or will we respond rationally and radically alter our relationship to this earth that gives us life?
July 10, 2019Coastal communities across the U.S. continued to see increased high tide flooding last year, forcing their residents and visitors to deal with flooded shorelines, streets and basements — a trend that is expected to continue this year. The elevated water levels affected coastal economies, tourism and crucial infrastructure like septic systems and stormwater systems, according to a new NOAA report. The report, 2018 State of High Tide Flooding and 2019 Outlook, documents changes in high tide flooding patterns at 98 NOAA tidal gauges along the U.S. coast that are likely to continue in the coming years.
The New York Times’ 2,400+ word report (6/3/19) by Julie Bosman, Julie Turkewitz and Timothy Williams on the historic flooding in the Midwest—amidst the wettest 12 months ever since recording began 124 years ago—is an illustrative example of how not to do disaster coverage. Recalling the Great Flood of 1993 and focusing on the four inundated towns of Davenport, Iowa; Valmeyer and Prairie du Rocher, Illinois; and Clarksville, Missouri, along the Mississippi River...
You have certainly not heard much about this in the West. And it didn’t get a fraction of the media attention (and none of the hundreds of millions of Euro pledges by the perversely rich) that the Notre Dame fire did. However, if disastrous floods had hit 28 out of 31 provinces and affected 10 million people in some European country or in the US, I believe you would have heard about it from Day One. But now it is Iran. Only the Iranians. The situation is disastrous but not so much because thousands have died. Rather, because floods of this magnitude are likely to have terrible long-term consequences for agricultural and other production, infrastructure, energy production, transport and daily lives (see pictures below and on the links).
Two weeks into devastating floods that have caused tremendous losses and damages across Iran, there is still no report about other countries extending help. The United States, a usual volunteer to extend support after every natural disaster in Iran regardless of tense relations between the two countries during the past decades, has not been reported to have seized the opportunity on the world stage to make a publicized offer of help. On March 25, the Persian Twitter account of the State Department made a short announcement offering sympathies and a one-sentence expression of readiness to help...
Post-flood satellite images of Mozambique show that Cyclone Idai submerged about 835 square miles of homes and fields — an area larger than New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston combined. Aid workers in Mozambique describe the floodwaters as “inland oceans extending for miles and miles.” Idai’s official death toll in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi reached 761 on Monday, but that total will surely rise. There are reports of hundreds of bodies alongside a single road as floodwaters began to recede.
The WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018, its 25th anniversary edition, highlights record sea level rise, as well as exceptionally high land and ocean temperatures over the past four years. This warming trend has lasted since the start of this century and is expected to continue. In 2018, most of the natural hazards which affected nearly 62 million people were associated with extreme weather and climate events. Floods continued to affect the largest number of people, more than 35 million.