Chronicles of Extreme Weather, Illustrated Edition

Here is the standard Google Earth view of the west end of Lake Superior, including my beloved second-home-town of Duluth and the idyllic Apostle Islands:


And here is a satellite view after the "never experienced anything like this before" torrential rains and resultant flooding last month:


This is the sort of thing we will be seeing more of. And, if you really want some climate-change-related earth-view fun, check out this "slidable" map showing how areas of DC and Baltimore looked before and after the Big Blackout of late June. Related to that blackout, I have a bunch of dispatches piled up on "wither / whither American infrastructure," but that will wait till next week.

Well, just one:
As you well understand, these storms [in Duluth, DC, wherever] have been forecast by climate scientists for many years. This is just the beginning. We are launched upon a weather adventure of our own making that may last for several hundred years, if not thousands. I recommend that people adopt the same philosophy used by bush Alaskans. Each household must become independent. Install a generator capable of operating the home and fuel for 10 days along with a water supply, cooking fuel, and food for the same period. Every home should have a larder, and the means to defend it.

Given your neighborhood, an association of home owners (The rebirth of community?) could jointly finance a permanently installed and protected standby system that provided minimum electric power for several homes. Systems such as that are more economical, safe and dependable than smaller 'personal' devices.
And -- why not? -- here is one more:
With your DC blackout story, shouldn't the question be: Are we experiencing the beginning of a protracted battle to adapt to climate change? Protecting the electric/internet infrastructure from weather will become the first great effort to adapt to climate change - and it will fail as climate change outruns the efforts to repair increasing storm related wind and water damage.

I live in Westchester, a New York suburb. Our power was out for 4 days in August due to hurricane driven winds, and then worse, a 5 days outage from the October 30 snowstorm driven downed trees. The hurricane was perhaps a normal weather variation, the snowstorm was not.

Seems like our leaders (and most other governments around the globe) have given up on stopping CO2 emissions shifting to a strategy of "adaptation" instead. With Obama's executive order 13514 the official policy of the US is "the inter-agency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, which is already engaged in developing the domestic and international dimensions of a U.S. strategy for adaptation to climate change." (See: Executive Order 13514--Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance  and Climate Change Adaptation Task Force | The White House ). If this much damage is caused by a mere less than 1 degree centigrade rise in temperature worldwide, what will a 3 degrees rise do, or 6 degrees rise, both within the realm of possibility on our current path?

I know from your reporting on China that you are ... aware of the 450 parts per million [CO2] limitation scientists at the Goddard Institute have set beyond which we risk catastrophic climate change. We will reach that target possibly by 2030 or 2035 on our current path, just 28 years or so away. These infrastructure disruptions are warnings to avoid the consequences of ignoring the 450 ppm target. Adaptation is just another excuse to avoid cutting back ending our reliance on carbon based energy as well as an effort to ignore the 450 ppm target.

This Minneapolis Star Tribune photo from Duluth gives you an idea of the infrastructure and the weather themes combined in a non-blackout way.


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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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