America's climate idiocy
It's been another month of climate disasters. Puerto Rico remains in ruins, three weeks after being hit by the worst hurricane since 1928. Forty people and counting have died in the most deadly series of wildfires in California history — which is especially unusual for the northern part of the state. And on Monday, Ireland, of all places, was thrashed by a severe tropical storm.
Against that backdrop, the American government isn't just failing to address the most immediate problems arising from its domestic disasters, it's actually taking steps to make things worse.
And it's not just Trump. A huge bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives (including every single Democrat) voted for a $36.5 billion disaster relief package containing $16 billion in debt cancellation for the broken national flood insurance program — but $5 billion in loans for Puerto Rico, thus adding to the island's already preposterously unpayable $74 billion debt load.
Now, that's not all that is in the disaster relief bill. There is also $13.6 billion in disaster relief to be shared between Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, plus a $1.3 billion food stamp grant for the island. That's certainly better than nothing. But at a conservative estimate, that disaster relief total will not be remotely sufficient for either Texas or Puerto Rico, the two places hit worst out of the three. It's also maybe only a tenth (or less) of what is needed for a structural overhaul of Puerto Rico, both to rebuild it and to put it on sound economic footing.
As for the flood insurance program, it's not a bad idea in itself. It's reasonable for government to help homeowners hit by unusual floods. However, the administration and payout structure of the program is nuts and has been for decades. It uses badly outdated flood maps and funds rebuilding far more than relocation. As a result, it has paid for many homes to be rebuilt again and again and again. This small minority of total membership accounts for a large portion of the overall payouts.
Indeed, it's not really a home insurance program, as revealed by the $16 billion debt cancellation. What it amounts to, in many cases, is a subsidy for people to build homes in flood-prone areas.
What the program needs is reform to use cutting-edge science and maps so that very flood-prone areas are not subsidized, as well as a relocation allowance so people are not stuck on the floodplain. But thanks to a recent executive order from President Trump, FEMA (which runs the program), along with every other federal agency, is now forbidden from using climate change in future policy calculations — and no such payment reform is on the horizon.
That's only the latest area in which Trump is being objectively pro-climate disaster. Scott Pruitt, the oil and gas stooge who Trump appointed to be EPA administrator, recently repealed President Obama's Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions. Trump also recently tapped Barry Myers of AccuWeather to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the CEO has long criticized NOAA weather analysis and science as offering unfair competition to private weather forecasters.
It's hard to describe the scale of the staggering irresponsibility here.
Literally in the midst of clockwork weather disasters almost certainly worsened by human-caused climate change, when half the planet is paying close attention to NOAA work, Trump is handing it and the EPA to corporate goons to tear apart for their highly probable personal benefit, and repealing the biggest effort to tackle climate change in American history. (Not to mention how Trump's Department of Energy and USDA has banned the use of the term "climate change," and how he has disbanded the advisory panel which produced the National Climate Assessment.) It's as if after the Pearl Harbor attack, President Roosevelt denied that it had happened, proposed huge cuts in funding to the Navy and the Air Force, and appointed Isoroku Yamamoto to be secretary of defense.
It's perhaps ironic that the party of bug-eyed, purple-faced hyper-nationalism, wrapped in the flag and bellowing the national anthem at hourly intervals, is working to physically destroy much of the country, but it's what's happening. Let us remember this the next time Republicans start howling about national security.