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Sat Nov 17, 2012, 02:32 PM

Lessons from 2012: Droughts, not Hurricanes, are the Greater Danger

Drought - it's like mail fraud charges for civilization. Not sexy, but it has teeth.

The colossal devastation and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Sandy makes the storm one of the greatest disasters in U.S. history. The storm and its aftermath have rightfully dominated the weather headlines this year, and Sandy will undoubtedly be remembered as the most notable global weather event of 2012. But shockingly, Sandy is probably not even the deadliest or most expensive weather disaster this year in the United States--Sandy's damages of perhaps $50 billion will likely be overshadowed by the huge costs of the great drought of 2012. While it will be several months before the costs of America's worst drought since 1954 are known, the 2012 drought is expected to cut America's GDP by 0.5 - 1 percentage points, said Deutsche Bank Securities this week. “If the U.S. were growing at 4 percent, it wouldn’t be as big an issue, but at 2 percent, it’s noticed,” said Joseph LaVorgna, the chief U.S. economist at Deutsche. Since the U.S. GDP is approximately $15 trillion, the drought of 2012 represents a $75 - $150 billion hit to the U.S. economy. This is in the same range as the estimate of $77 billion in costs for the drought, made by Purdue University economist Chris Hurt in August. While Sandy's death toll of 113 in the U.S. is the second highest death toll from a U.S. hurrFigure 1. The top-ten list of most expensive U.S. weather-related disasters from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is dominated by hurricanes and droughts. Three of the top five disasters are droughts. The numbers for Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 drought are preliminary numbers from media sources, and are not from NCDC.icane since 1972, it is likely to be exceeded by the death toll from the heat waves that accompanied this year's drought. The heat waves associated with the U.S. droughts of 1980 and 1988 had death tolls of 10,000 and 7,500 respectively, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, and the heat wave associated with the $12 billion 2011 Texas drought killed 95 Americans. With July 2012 the hottest month in U.S. history, I expect the final heat death toll in the U.S. this year will be much higher than Sandy's death toll.


Figure 1. The top-ten list of most expensive U.S. weather-related disasters from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is dominated by hurricanes and droughts. Three of the top five disasters are droughts. The numbers for Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 drought are preliminary numbers from media sources, and are not from NCDC.

Drought: civilization's greatest natural enemy
People fear storms, and spectacular and devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina have stirred more debate in the U.S. about taking action against climate change than any other weather event. But I argue that this attention is misplaced. Drought is our greatest enemy. Drought impacts the two things we need to live--food and water. The history of civilization is filled with tales of great storms that have killed thousands and caused untold suffering and destruction. But cities impacted by great storms inevitably recover and rebuild, often stronger than before. I expect that New York City, the coast of New Jersey, and other areas battered by Sandy will do likewise. But drought can crash civilizations. Drought experts Justin Sheffield and Eric Wood of Princeton, in their 2011 book, Drought, list more than ten civilizations and cultures that probably collapsed because of drought. Among them: The Mayans of 800 - 1000 AD. The Anasazi culture in the Southwest U.S. in the 11th - 12th centuries. The ancient Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. The Chinese Ming Dynasty of 1500 - 1730. When the rains stop and the soil dries up, cities die and civilizations collapse, as people abandon lands no longer able to supply them with the food and water they need to live.

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2296

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Reply Lessons from 2012: Droughts, not Hurricanes, are the Greater Danger (Original post)
phantom power Nov 2012 OP
NoOneMan Nov 2012 #1

Response to phantom power (Original post)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 02:39 PM

1. Another reason why real climate change mitigation should consists of tree planting

 

As well as shifting agriculture to woody perennials as much as possible, as soon as possible. This is far more important than burning oil to build windmills right now. You can't eat solar panels.

FDR's CCC planted 3 billion trees while fixing the dustbowl. Obama started an organic garden.

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