Category Archives: Natural Disasters

The Climate Connection to the Buffalo Storm

If you are reading this and are familiar with Climate Connections, none of this will be news to you. Climate change and weather patterns are inextricably linked.  The mainstream media is a mixed bag of tepid reporting on climate change. This weekend, in the teeth of one of the worst storms to hit the region in history, the Buffalo News published an article describing how the huge lake effect snowstorm connects to warming global temperatures and climate change.

The storm has turned much of our Buffalo, New York community (home offices of Global Justice Ecology Project)  into a disaster area.

Buffalo News readers were exposed to a rare chance to engage an article that links their current situation with significant climate change issues, including a futures analysis. Even though the article contains the apparently mandatory disclaimer that “[this] doesn’t mean you can attribute last week’s storm to climate change,” the roadmap described makes it clear that you can.

We applaud the Buffalo News and News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski on this terrific article. We also note and urge you to read the comments section at this linked article. Many, from climate deniers, are both amusing and sadly reflective of how and why we are facing the current spiral that in Buffalo this time has cost human lives and hundreds of millions of dollars.

South Buffalo, New York, 19 November 2014 "My car", photo by Jay Burney

South Buffalo, New York, 19 November 2014 “My Car,” photo by Jay Burney

Winter weather weirdness may be just beginning

By Jerry Zremski, Buffalo News. 22 November, 2014 

Brace yourself. November’s white nightmare could become a recurring bad dream of varying intensity.

While last week’s winter blast appears to be the freak offspring of a typhoon-blasted jet stream and a warm Lake Erie, it’s also part of a long-term pattern that shows no sign of changing.

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Filed under Climate Change, Frontline Communities, Great Lakes, Human made disasters, Media, Natural Disasters

Historical Critique of the Corporate Takeover of the UN

This piece examines the history of the takeover of the UN Climate Conferences by industry and promotes the US climate movement getting on board with the fundamental demands and actions, and alternative solutions being advanced by social movements around the world.  It also gives a nod to the work of GJEP in this arena and credits our report, The Green Shock Doctrine. Thanks Margaret and Kevin!

Protest at UN Climate Conference, Cancun, Mexico 2010.

Climate Alarm Bells Ring but UN and Obama Administration Fail To Act
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. The Smirking Chimp. September 5, 2014.

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed.

The climate crisis is a ticking clock that demands immediate effective action, but the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP), which is the international body responsible for creating agreements on climate change, has become nothing more than a tool for multinational corporations and financiers to force a neo-liberal agenda and profit from the crisis. The false solutions being promoted displace and exploit people, destroy the environment and worsen climate change.

The climate crisis is our greatest challenge. Significant work has been done over the past decade by civil society groups around the world cooperating to create plans for resistance to the corrupt COP process and a vision for a just transition to sustainable systems. Now is the time for organizations throughout the United States that advocate for justice to recognize that the climate crisis affects all of us and to participate in this global movement.

Effective strategy requires knowledge of the political environment, the entities involved and an understanding of real versus false solutions. The United Nations, the United States government, Big Green Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the corporations that exert influence over them all are obstacles to effective action. Solutions exist but they won’t be coming from above, rather they will come from a mobilized grass roots demanding transformation to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy.

To read the entire article, click here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, COP21 Paris 2015, Copenhagen/COP-15, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Natural Disasters, Solutions, UNFCCC, Warsaw/COP-19, World Bank, WTO

Extreme weather conditions doubled over last ten years

A Russian man tries to stop fire near vi

In 2010, heatwaves caused hundreds of wildfires across Russia. Above, a man tries to stop a fire near Dolginino village. Photograph: Artyom Korotayev/AFP/Getty Images

Do you find yourself thinking: Another drought? Another flood? If you’ve noticed extreme weather conditions seem more common, you aren’t the only one. According to an article in The Guardian, German climate scientists analyzed weather patterns from the past 35 years and have noticed a significant increase in “blocking patterns,” which have doubled the frequency of extreme weather conditions in the last 10-15 years. Damian Carrington of The Guardian writes:

The work shows so-called “blocking patterns”, where hot or wet weather remains stuck over a region for weeks causing heatwaves or floods, have more than doubled in summers over the last decade. The new study may also demonstrate a link between the UK’s recent flood-drenched winter and climate change.

Fires are more likely to spread and spread fast during a a heatwave. In 2010, 50,000 people in Russia died from fires due to heatwaves. The winter of 2013-2014 was the wettest the UK had seen in more than 250 years. Flooding from these rains destroyed property, businesses, land and lives. Both of these extreme weather conditions are the result of the increase in these “blocking patterns.”

The rise in blocking patterns correlates closely with the extra heating being delivered to the Arctic by climate change, according to the research which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS). Coumou [Dr Dim Coumou, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research] and his colleagues argue there are good physical reasons to think there is a causal link, because the jet streams are driven by the difference in temperature between the poles and the equator. As the Arctic is warming more quickly than lower latitudes, that temperature difference is declining, providing less energy for the jet stream and its meanders, which are called Rossby waves.

The link between climate change and increasing extreme weather conditions is, arguably, firmly established. The timeframe, however, is a different story. For extreme weather conditions to double in the last 10-15 years shows that climate change is moving faster, resulting in more frequent catastrophic weather patterns that damage both natural and urban environments. The rate will only increase and the disasters along with it. What will “blocking patterns” have to wipe out before governments and corporations will actually start to listen?

Want to learn more? Read the full article.


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Filed under Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Natural Disasters

Mayflower: Deadly tornado sweeps through Arkansas town one year after Exxon Mobil tar sands spill

By Steve Horn, April 28, 2014. Source: DeSmog Blog

Eye of the Mayflower TornadoOn March 29, 2013, ExxonMobil‘s Pegasustar sands pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”)pouring down the town’s streets.

Now, just over a year after the massive spill, devastation has come to Mayflower and neighboring towns again, this time in the form of a lethal tornado. On the evening of April 27, the twisterdestroyed huge pockets of the town of just over 2,300 citizens in a wholesale manner, with 14 confirmed dead and likely many more still not counted.

“Sadly, we don’t expect it to stay at 14,” tweeted Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. At least 10 died in Faulkner County alone, which houses Mayflower, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

The National Weather Service in Little Rock has given the tornado that hit Mayflower an EF-3 rating on a preliminary basis. EF3 (the highest rating is an EF5)equates to 136–165 mile per hour winds and KATV weatherman Todd Yakoubian tweeted that National Weather Service will have its final rating in by April 30.

On the whole, Arkansas Geographic Information Office has reported that 3,200 addresses in Faulkner County have had various levels of impact.
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Filed under Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Oil, Tar Sands

Chile: Was Valparaíso fire a “natural disaster”?

April 20, 2014. Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas

The central Chilean port city of Valparaíso remained under military control as of Apr. 15, three days after forest fires began sweeping into some of the city’s working-class neighborhoods, leaving at least 15 people dead and destroying 2,900 homes. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said the government hoped to have the fires under control by Apr. 16, but the national forestry agency indicated that it might take the 5,000 firefighters and other personnel in the city as long as 20 days to extinguish the fires completely. Some 12,500 people are now without homes in Valparaíso; this disaster follows an 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile that killed five people on Apr. 1 and made 2,635 homes uninhabitable.

Declared a World Heritage City in 2004 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Valparaíso is located in an area prone to forest fires. But experts and reporters said the extent of the devastation resulted less from natural conditions than from political failures. Witnesses reported that the firefighters–all unpaid volunteers, according to Chilean historian Sergio Grez–were slow to arrive when the fires started on the afternoon of Apr. 12, and they were equipped only with shovels and one truck. Driven by strong winds, the fires spread quickly through the close-packed wooden structures in the poorer neighborhoods, made vulnerable by decades of unplanned growth. Roads were often too narrow for fire engines, and there was no running water for fire hoses in the affected areas. Helicopters came with water hours later.

“We have been the builders and architects of our own dangers,” Valparaíso mayor Jorge Castro admitted on Apr. 13. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet told the national daily El Diario de Cooperativa on Apr. 15 that her government would try “to rebuild in a more orderly manner.” “It’s not enough to reinstall houses or support families,” she said. “We have to do something more substantive.” (El Mostrador (Chile) 4/14/14Les InRocks (France) 4/14/14US News & World Report 4/15/14 from AP)

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Filed under Natural Disasters, Politics

Chile quake: This was big but a bigger one awaits, scientist says

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, April 2, 2014.  Source: CNN

An 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile Tuesday night, triggering small landslides, setting off a tsunami and killing at least five people.

But geologists say an even larger quake in the region is lurking.


“This magnitude 8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting in this area,” said Mark Simons, a geophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California. “We’re expecting a potentially even larger earthquake.”

It could be tomorrow. Or it could be 50 years.

“We do not know when it’s going to occur,” he said.

Here’s why:
Chile sits on an arc of volcanos and fault lines circling the Pacific Ocean known as the “Ring of Fire.” This area sees frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The country itself has seen no shortage of seismic activity in recent years.

Since 1973, Chile has had more than a dozen quakes of magnitude-7.0 and above.

In 2010, about 500 people died when an 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit. That quake was so violent, it moved one whole city about 10 feet west.

Simons says Tuesday’s quake is of interest because the fault line along Chile’s coast has constantly shifted during the last 140 years.

In recent weeks, this area has seen a cluster of activity– something like 50 to 100 smaller quakes.

Then, late last month, a 6.7 and a 6.1 magnitude quake struck.

When quakes happen, the surface ruptures. The two sides of the fault slip past each other.

But the area to the north and south of Tuesday’s quake “did not rupture in this event,” Simons said. And it’s “still an area that hasn’t ruptured in 140-odd years.”

Given that it’s an area of frequent quakes, and frequent ruptures, it may only be a matter of time.

“We expect another 8.8-8.9 earthquake here sometime in the future,” Simons said.
The good news? “It may not occur for many, many years.”

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Filed under Climate Change, Latin America-Caribbean, Natural Disasters

State allowed logging on plateau above slope involved in deadly mudslide

By Mike Baker, Ken Armstrong and Hal Bernton, March 25, 2014. Source: Seattle Times

This aerial photo, taken after Saturday’s landslide, shows part of the plateau that has been logged over the decades. Right above where the hill fell away is a 7½-acre patch, shaped like a triangle, that was clear-cut about nine years ago. Photo: AP

This aerial photo, taken after Saturday’s landslide, shows part of the plateau that has been logged over the decades. Right above where the hill fell away is a 7½-acre patch, shaped like a triangle, that was clear-cut about nine years ago. Photo: AP

The plateau above the soggy hillside that gave way Saturday has been logged for almost a century, with hundreds of acres of softwoods cut and hauled away, according to state records.

But in recent decades, as the slope has become more unstable, scientists have increasingly challenged the timber harvests, with some even warning of possible calamity.

The state has continued to allow logging on the plateau, although it has imposed restrictions at least twice since the 1980s. The remnant of one clear-cut operation is visible in aerial photographs of Saturday’s monstrous mudslide. A triangle — 7½ acres, the shape of a pie slice — can be seen atop the destruction, its tip just cutting into where the hill collapsed.
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NASA-funded study: Industrial civilization headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

Note: Finally, some wonky experts have used complicated equations to determine exactly what social movements have been saying for decades.  Granted, their solutions are unlikely to be rooted in justice, equity and biocentrism.  But at least this study talks about wealth redistribution.

Now if we could only conduct one more study…

-The GJEP Team

By Nafeez Ahmed, March 14, 2014. Source: The Guardian

This Nasa Earth Observatory image shows a storm system circling around an area of extreme low pressure in 2010, which many scientists attribute to climate change. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

This Nasa Earth Observatory image shows a storm system circling around an area of extreme low pressure in 2010, which many scientists attribute to climate change. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Natural Disasters