Our World is Changing in Ways We Would Rather Deny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A not very cozy welcoming to the new abnormal Looking back at America’s summer of heat, floods, and climate change. The United States is hardly alone in its share of climate disasters. 2022 wasn’t just a freak summer. Over the years, such extreme events are occurring in increasing frequency and intensity, magnifying the human and financial cost of these disasters.

“Climate change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather. In reality,  it is about changes in our very way of life.” – Paul Polman. The West is running out of water. Lake Mead and Shasta Lake are running dry and are projected the water supply is headed toward catastrophic failure. Entire cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix exist because of these waters. They sustain California’s agriculture, which is America’s breadbasket.

The U.S. is facing scorching heat in the summer of 2022 with more than two dozen states experiencing heat warnings and many Americans being exposed to temperatures higher than 90 degrees. The deadly weather is severe on its own, but it’s also a sign of what’s to come as the planet heats up due to climate change. A quarter of the U.S. will fall inside an extreme heat belt.

The megadrought in the Western U.S., the region’s worst in 1,200 years, is threatening America’s cattle heartland: withering pastures, wrecking feed harvests, and endangering a quintessential way of life. New data on heat risks forecast an “extreme heat belt” will emerge in large parts of the country by 2053.

As of August 8, 97.52 percent of California is in a state of “severe” drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, while 99.76 percent is in at least “moderate” drought. This time last year, 95.56 percent of the state was classified as under “severe” drought.

California produces more than one-third of U.S. vegetables and three-quarters of domestic fruits and nuts.

The drought is echoing through beef supply chains, resulting in higher prices for consumers for at least the next two years – and likely be the last straw for many small family-run cattle herds that are a key part of the cattle industry.

What lies ahead are inevitably higher food prices and shortages.

Western Snowpack Has Shrunk by 23% Since 1955

Change in April snowpack in the Western US, 1955–2022

Nowhere is the Southwest’s worst drought since the year 800 more evident than Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the pair of artificial Colorado River reservoirs whose plunging levels threaten major water and power sources for tens of millions of people.  States along the Colorado River have missed a federally imposed deadline to develop a new water-sharing agreement, and the federal government announced Tuesday it will reduce water allocations, including nearly 25 percent in cuts to Arizona.  There is no escaping the reality of climate change.

Seattle

Portland

Boise

Shasta

Lake

Salt Lake

City

Lake

Oroville

Denver

San Francisco

Lake

Powell

Las

Vegas

Lake

Mead

Albuquerque

Los Angeles

Phoenix

San Diego

100 mi

100 km

Source: EPA

The big picture: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600 people in the U.S. each year are killed by extreme heat, though other studies put the figure much higher.

A 2020 study looking at counties representing about 62 percent of the U.S. population found that in those alone, there were an average of 5,608 heat-attributed deaths each year between 1997 and 2006.

The Arctic is warming at a more rapid pace than previously thought — and four times faster than the world at large, according to research published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

Because of the killing heat, crops are beginning to fail. like everything from cocoa to coffee to wheat to sugar to mustard are beginning to decline.

Extreme heat kills more people each year in the U.S. than any other kind of natural disaster. A recent study found that more than a third of all heat deaths worldwide can be pinned on climate change. Parts of the U.S. are feeling the danger now.

Extreme heat uncovers lost villages, ancient ruins and shipwrecks

In an eerie twist, volatile weather and heat-induced drought are unearthing glimpses of lost archaeological treasures and forgotten history.

 The U.S. is responsible for about 25 percent of all planet-warming emissions currently in the atmosphere, while Guatemala, for example, has contributed roughly 0.0002 percent. But more 75 percent of the heat deaths in that country can be linked to climate change.

Blistering heat waves have smashed temperature records around the globe this summer, scorching crops, knocking out power, fueling wildfires, buckling roads and runways, and killing hundreds in Europe alone.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 96 large active fires have burned 690,030 acres in eight states so far this summer, mostly concentrated in areas spanning the Northwest, Great Basin, and Northern Rockies. Smoke from the fires has been compromising air quality.

The sudden shift from an abstract threat to reality has many people wondering: is climate change unfolding faster than scientists had expected? Are these extreme events more extreme than studies had predicted they would be, given the levels of greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere?

Every day, car tires produce vastly more particle pollution than exhaust. Tire particles contain a wide range of toxic organic compounds, making them subject to regulation.

A new poll in 2022 finds that the majority of households in the U.S. have been affected by extreme weather events, which have led to health and financial problems for some.  some report serious health problems (24 percent) or financial problems (17 percent). Fourteen percent of them say that they’ve had to evacuate from their homes and 14 percent say that they’ve suffered damage to their home or property.

Heat and Melting Ice

Global warming is causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster this summer. The expanding reach of climate-fueled disasters, a trend that has been increasing at least since 2018, shows the extent to which a warming planet has already transformed Americans’ lives. The American West is in the hottest and driest 23-year period in at least 1,200 years. The frequency of extremely hot weather and record temperatures and rainfall has increased around the world as a result of global warming, according to an international research project. Extreme heat kills more Californians every year than any other extreme weather event.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) declared 2021 was one of the planet’s seven hottest years since records began. It was a year of weather extremes. The year was about 1.11℃ above pre-industrial levels—the seventh year in a row that the average global temperature rise edged over 1℃. The WMO report echoes two separate official US analyses released last week that found 2021 was the sixth hottest year on record, tied with 2018.

Arctic temperatures soared to an unprecedented 100 degrees in 2020. 2021 experienced a tornado that is the longest one on record in the United States in a month in which tornadoes do not usually occur. Many of these events were exacerbated by climate change. Scientists say there are more to come – and worse – as the Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm through the next decade and beyond.

Global warming is causing more frequent and longer heatwaves. Extreme heat causes crop losses, power failures, and school closures, and will test the “limits of human survivability.”

Based on the number of greenhouse gases humans have already added to the Earth’s atmosphere, the world is already guaranteed to experience  5 feet of sea-level rise in the coming decade. The first country to be swallowed up by the sea will be Kiribati, a small nation on a Pacific atoll. 64 percent of Americans live in places that experienced a multi-day heatwave in the past three months of 2021.  Mountain glaciers hold less ice than previously thought – it’s a concern for future water supplies but a drop in the bucket for sea-level rise.

Environmental threats are among our greatest risks by likelihood and severity of consequences.  This has been brought home by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic severe storms, fires, hurricanes, coastal storms, and floods. The eight worst wildfire weather years on record happened in the last decade. The rise in pollutants from forest fires in the Western states is reversing a decade of clean air gains in the U.S., according to a new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Extreme winds, topography,  and vegetation influence the severity of mega-fires.

The climate crisis is turning the Arctic green. In northern Norway, trees are rapidly taking over the tundra and threatening an ancient way of life that depends on snow and ice.  The changes ahead may also bring the beginning of the end – a final termination – for many glaciers north and south,

Humidity

When it comes to measuring global warming, humidity, not just heat, matters in generating dangerous climate extremes, a new study finds. Researchers say temperature by itself isn’t the best way to measure climate change’s weird weather and downplays impacts in the tropics. But factoring in air moisture along with heat shows that climate change since 1980 is near twice as bad as previously calculated. The energy generated in extreme weather, such as storms, floods, and rainfall is related to the amount of water in the air. So a team of scientists in the U.S. and China decided to use an obscure weather measurement called equivalent potential temperature — or theta-e — that reflects “the moisture energy of the atmosphere.”

Wildfire in Colorado raged through the end of 2021. More than 500 families may enter a new year having lost their homes after runaway grass fires bore down on the region northwest of Denver. Approximately 34,000 residents of the towns of Superior and Louisville in Boulder County fled the “life-threatening” situation Thursday as 100-mph-plus winds acted like a turbine fanning the flames.. Residents remained barred from some adjacent municipalities as the Colorado State Patrol warned that flames were still present.

Climate change has destabilized the Earth’s poles, putting the rest of the planet in peril. These warm conditions are catastrophic for the sea ice that usually spans across the North Pole. This past summer saw the second-lowest extent of thick, old sea ice since tracking began in 1985. Large mammals like polar bears go hungry without this crucial platform from which to hunt. Marine life ranging from tiny plankton to giant whales is at risk.  The Greenland Ice Sheet Shrunk for 25th Year Straight in 2021, Report Shows.

Biden has told the nation “We can’t wait any longer to deal with the climate crisis. “We see it with our own eyes and it’s time to act.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said “Floods in New York are a reminder of what is at stake if we do not build resilient infrastructure while meeting the climate crisis. “American transit doesn’t just need repairs, it needs upgrades to withstand the climate challenges of the 21st century.”

Trapped under Earth’s permafrost – ground that remains frozen for a minimum of two years – are untold quantities of greenhouse gases, microbes, and chemicals, including the now-banned pesticide DDT. As the planet warms, permafrost is thawing at an increasing rate, as reported by the Environmental News Network.  A paper published earlier this year in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment looked at the current state of permafrost research. Along with highlighting conclusions about permafrost thaw, the paper focuses on how researchers are seeking to address the questions surrounding it.

Infrastructure is already affected: Thawing permafrost has led to giant sinkholes, slumping telephone poles, damaged roads, and runways, and toppled trees. More difficult to see is what has been trapped in permafrost’s mix of soil, ice, and dead organic matter. Research has looked at how chemicals like DDT and microbes – some of which have been frozen for thousands, if not millions, of years – could be released from thawing permafrost.

The risk of infectious diseases is now ranked at Number One, while in 2020 it came in 10th place.  Regardless of where COVID-D came from – passage from animals to humans or in a laboratory, we can expect new variants like Delta and Omicron named a “variant of concern”  and new diseases, like the Havana Syndrome.    COVID-19 is spreading to animals.  15 species in the U.S.—including cats, dogs, tigers, lions, hyenas, hippos, and white-tailed deer— have contracted the virus that causes COVID-19 so far. Might it spread to animals we use for food?

The U.N. climate summit, known as COP26 this year, brings officials from almost 200 countries to Glasgow to haggle over the best measures to combat global warming.

Drought

The American West has spent the last two decades in what scientists are now saying is the most extreme megadrought in at least 1,200 years. In a new study, researchers also noted that human-caused climate change is a significant driver of the unprecedented drought parching the U.S. Southwest since 2020.  They found the drought would not have reached its current punishing intensity without the extremely high temperatures brought by human-caused global warming. destructive conditions and offered a grim prognosis: even drier decades lie ahead. 

As part of their analysis, the team compared observations of precipitation and temperature across six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah—for the 20-month period from January 2020 through August 2021. Many areas in the region experienced three successive “failed” wet seasons; the 2019-2020 winter wet season, the 2020 June-August North American monsoon, and the 2020-2021 winter wet season were all below average.    The cumulative precipitation for the 20-month period was the lowest on record, dating back to 1895. That left almost the entire western half of the contiguous United States in some level of drought at the end of August. 2021.  Drought in the breadbasket states of the midwest.

Lake Powell, the country’s second-largest reservoir and a key source of water and power for much of the West, is more parched than ever. In March 2022 month, the lake dropped below 25% capacity, the federal government said and has also lost 7% of its total potential capacity since 1963.

California has adopted drought rules outlawing water wasting, with fines of up to $500. In an effort to discourage wasteful water practices such as hosing off driveways or allowing irrigation water to run down streets, California water officials have imposed new drought rules for cities and towns throughout the state.

Water Shortages Rise to Crisis

Farmers use a majority of our groundwater, but corporations like Nestle and Coca-Cola in making their products, and companies like Google, who use billions of gallons of water a year to cool their servers.

We drink water to survive, to make food, to bathe, to wash our clothes, and use the bathroom. Every time you flush the toilet, it uses at least a gallon of water — and that’s an efficient model. Older toilets use six or seven gallons.

We already pay for our water.   Besides all that is sold in stores, if you live in a house, you have a water bill. If you live in an apartment, it’s factored into your rent.

Pure, clean drinking water will become one of the most valuable assets on earth worth more than oil. Imagine if the only way you could afford water was from public fountains and restrooms.

Groundwater accounts for nearly half of the domestic and agricultural water supply in the United States. Our current consumption of water vastly outstrips the water table refill rate, and demand is only expected to increase in the coming decades.; every nation on Earth is scrambling for freshwater reserves. The United States is not alone in this problem. The more groundwater we use, the less there is. This is because surfaces on the ground from which water has been extracted settle and close spaces once occupied by groundwater.

In 2018, Cape Town came perilously close to ‘Day Zero’  that is, four million city inhabitants would have been left without water. Now another city, Nelson Mandela Bay, is facing acute water shortages and risks approaching its own Day Zero.

In increasingly dry western Kansas, underground water makes everything possible. Irrigation for crops. Stock water for cattle. Drinking water for towns. In increasingly dry western Kansas, underground water makes everything possible. Irrigation for crops. Stock water for cattle. Drinking water for towns. The Ogallala Aquifer provides 70-80% of the water used by Kansans each day. But the aquifer is drying up at an accelerating rate. Aquifer water levels across western and central Kansas dropped by more than a foot on average this past year. That’s the biggest single-year decrease since 2015, according to the Kansas Geological Survey’s annual report.

And while the aquifer is losing that foot of water, it’s barely being refilled. In most of western Kansas, less than one inch of water seeps underground to recharge the aquifer each year.

Water Moves

Water is moving away from dry regions towards wet regions, causing droughts to worsen in parts of the globe while intensifying rainfall events and flooding in others. In other words, wet areas are getting wetter, and dry areas are getting drier.  Because around 80 percent of global rainfall and evaporation happens over the ocean, while land gets drier, the oceans get fuller. In dense cities, only around 20% of rain actually infiltrates the soil. Instead, water drains and pipes carry it away.

In addition to obvious consequences like crop and sanitation failure, groundwater depletion can lead to disastrous social conflicts and even war. Between 2007 and 2010, drought in Syria drove millions of rural people into cities, where tensions quickly mounted and civil war ensued. Competition among nations for freshwater will only intensify.

There is a worldwide movement that seeks to restore water’s natural tendency to linger in places like wetlands and floodplains instead of tightly confining rivers with levees, putting buildings or parking lots where water wants to linger so it can be used, or erecting dams. In China, the idea of giving water space has been elevated from a fringe concept to a national mission.

Scientists are using the geological record of the deep sea to discover that past global warming has sped up deep ocean circulation. This is one of the missing links for predicting how future climate change may affect heat and carbon capture by the oceans. More vigorous ocean currents make it easier for carbon and heat to be “mixed in.”

Microscopic marine organisms called plankton use this dissolved carbon to build their shells. They sink down to the seabed after they die, sequestering the carbon. These sedimentary deposits are from the Earth’s largest carbon sink.

Maps indicate that over the last 13 million years as the earth progressively cooled and developed expanding inland ice caps, sediment breaks gradually became less frequent—a tell-tale sign of deep-sea circulation becoming more sluggish.

At the same unusual flooding is afflicting communities around the nation.

Water Quality 

91% of Pennsylvania schools that tested drinking water found lead in their water—only 9% of the schools removed it.  EWG researchers collected and reviewed results from water contaminant tests conducted by water utilities and regulators from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. After combing through the data from almost 50,000 water systems serving tens of millions of American households, the researchers found sweeping drinking water contamination from numerous pollutants such as arsenic, lead, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), radioactive materials, and pesticides.

Since the 1960s, the extent of an open ocean with low oxygen has increased by roughly the area of the European Union. More than 500 low-oxygen sites have been identified in coastal waters. These “dead zones” can cause mass killings of fish and are contributing to climate change. The problem starts on land with chemical pollution.

Compared to the previous (2019) update to the database, which identified 268 chemicals in America’s water utilities, the new database added 56 new chemicals. These substances are new PFAS or emerging pollutants, such as pesticides and radioactive material, that are currently monitored by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the agency’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. However, these substances have yet to receive any legal limits, thwarting the water systems’ impetus to tackle the contamination, according to EWG.

Currently, the EPA regulates more than 90 contaminants in drinking water, a fraction of the agency’s inventory of more than 85,000 chemicals that fall under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA’s Office of Water has not added any new substances to its regulated list since 2006.

Even for substances that are regulated by the EPA, their “legal limits were set based on outdated science,” Uloma Uche, an environmental health scientist at EWG who helped construct the tap water database, told EHN.

“We are not being exposed to just one contaminant when we’re drinking water,” said Uche. “We’re being exposed to multiple contaminants.”

The EPA’s water regulations “assure that public water systems are monitoring and taking actions to achieve meaningful reductions to human health risks from contaminants in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act,” an EPA spokesperson told EHN. The agency also “has evaluated a number of unregulated drinking water contaminants” under the Safe Drinking Water Act and is taking actions to update its regulations, said the spokesperson.

Consumers can enter their ZIP code into the tap water database and see a report of toxic contaminants in the area’s drinking water as well as safety assessments put together by EWG scientists. In many areas, various dangerous contaminants have been uncovered in water samples, although they were still in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards.

Although your water is below the legal limit, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe from contaminants.

Air Pollution

Exposure to air pollution is linked to the increased severity of mental illness. The most comprehensive study of its kind., involving 13,000 people in London, found that a relatively small increase in exposure to nitrogen dioxide led to a 32% increase in the risk of needing community-based mental health treatment and an 18% increase in the risk of being admitted to hospital.

Other research has shown that small increases in dirty air are linked to significant rises in depression and anxiety and increased suicides.  It reduces intelligence and is linked to dementia. A global review concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ in the human body.  More than two million people worldwide died of causes attributed to air pollution.  Methane in the atmosphere is at an all-time high; it has more than doubled in the atmosphere since 1750. Fossil fuels emit 70% more methane than governments admit.

The rate of major depression in adolescents increased more than 50% between 2005 and 2017, and the rate of moderate to severe depression in college students nearly doubled between 2007 and 2018.

A Harvard study links air pollution from fracking to early deaths. Among nearby residents. The researchers studied more than 15 million Medicare beneficiaries living in all major fracking regions and gathered data from more than 2.5 million oil and gas wells.

as air pollution may help predict people’s chances of dying from conditions like heart attack and stroke.

Exposure to above-average levels of outdoor air pollution increased the risk of death by 20 percent and increased the risk of death from cardiovascular disease specifically by 17 percent, the survey published in PLoS One  in June 2022.

The use of wood- or kerosene-burning stoves for cooking and heating homes without proper ventilation increased death risk by 23 percent and 9 percent respectively — raising the specific risk of death by cardiovascular disease by 36 percent and 19 percent, the study determined.

Extreme Heat

Extreme humid heat has more than doubled in frequency since 1979 raising the risk of heatstroke. If the hot air is too humid, heat exchange is blocked, and the body loses its primary means of cooling itself. When your body temperature gets too high, your body cooks to the point that your body’s proteins break down, enzymes stop regulating your organs’ functions. and your organs start shutting down. These are heat strokes.

Increased heat, drought, and insect outbreaks, all linked to climate change, have increased wildfires. Increasing global warming and land-use change are driving a global increase in extreme wildfires, with a 14% increase predicted by 2030 and a 30% increase by 2050, according to a UN report. and up to 52 percent by 2100. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57 percent by the end of the century.

Declining water supplies reduced agricultural yields, increased ill-health in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns.

The city of Abbotsford in British Columbia, just north of the US border near Vancouver, recorded its hottest day ever in late June when temperatures climbed to 109 degrees Fahrenheit during an unprecedented heatwave.

Just 140 days later, it smashed another record: The city observed its wettest day with nearly four inches of heavy rainfall in less than 24 hours.

 

Depleting Our Reserves

To get an idea of the imprint, humans have made on our planet, consider that all the structures we have built − roads, houses, skyscapes, schools, and churches outweigh all the animals and plants on Earth put together. People and our domestic animals now add up to 95% of the mass of all vertebrates – wild mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians constitute the remaining 5%.

As many as a million species could soon disappear from the face of the Earth in what amounts to the planet’s sixth mass extinction. Two-fifths of the world’s plant species are endangered.  Wetlands mismanagement is endangering 40,000 small but vital plant and animal species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

By 1960, humans were already using around 73% of the planet’s regenerative capacity: that is, what we use for fuel and housing was still within the limits of sustainability. By 2016, the demand for food, fuel, and housing had grown to an unsustainable 170% resulting in around 700 to 800 million people starving, and another one to two billion children and adults malnourished.  Antarctica’s ice is falling into the ocean and this will lead to higher food prices.

Alarming stories from Antarctica are now more frequent than ever; the ice surface is melting, floating ice shelves are collapsing, and glaciers are flowing faster into the ocean.

Antarctica will be the largest source of future sea-level rise. Yet scientists don’t know exactly how this melting will unfold as the climate warms.

Our latest research looks at how the Antarctic ice sheet advanced and retreated over the past 10,000 years. It holds stark warnings, and possibly some hope, for the future.

The Current Imbalance

Future sea-level rise presents one of the most significant challenges of climate change, with economic, environmental, and societal impacts expected for coastal communities around the globe.

While it seems like a distant issue, the changes in Antarctica may soon be felt on our doorsteps, in the form of rising sea levels.

Complex models now gauge the impact of climate change on global food production. Climate change is a “threat multiplier,” with alarming results. It makes hunger emergencies worse. Crop yields could plummet, faster than expected. If crops fail, especially in two or three major breadbasket regions at the same time, as some models began to suggest, millions of people could starve.

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable in the U.S. The time is approaching when there won’t be enough tomatoes. For the past 30-plus years, on average, the Central Valley would get five to seven days with temperatures above 100°F. This is the physiological threshold beyond which tomato plants cease producing By the end of the century, there could be 40-50 days that ho days per year.

More enormous storms are happening with greater frequency.  Kentucky in December 2021 was battered by another huge storm three weeks after tornadoes killed 80 and injured 100.

Hurricane Ida didn’t inundate New Orleans, but it did its surrounding communities that did not have the massive flood protection systems New Orleans has. How much money for infrastructure can go to save land destined for certain flooding?

Greenland’s immense ice sheet has lost enough ice in the past 20 years to submerge the entire United States in half a meter of water. The climate is warming faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet and melting ice from Greenland is now the main factor in the rise in the Earth’s oceans, according to NASA.

More than two million people have been killed by storms, floods, droughts, and heatwaves since 1970, according to WMO data, as Reuters reported. The data showed that these weather-related natural disasters resulted in $3.64 trillion in damages worldwide. Since the 1970s early warning systems for extreme weather helped reduce the number of people killed by natural disasters by 76 percent, Reuters reported.

As wildfires worsen and sea levels rise, growing numbers of Americans are moving to places such as Vermont and the Appalachian Mountains. These are seen as safe havens from climate change. This population movement will intensify in the coming decades.

Since measurements began in 2002, the Greenland ice sheet has lost about 4,700 billion tonnes of ice, said Polar Portal, a joint project involving several Danish Arctic research institutes.  This represents 4,700 cubic kilometers of melted water — “enough to cover the entire US by half a meter” — and has contributed 1.2 centimeters to sea-level rise, the Arctic monitoring website added.

Civil Unrest

Population growth sparks both civil unrest and international conflict and ever-higher global average temperatures exacerbate the desperation of people and willingness to resort to violence.   It is predicted that between 25 million and 1 billion people will be driven from their homes by drought, poverty, civil war, flooding, or heat extreme by 2050.

The pandemic has produced cascading effects: more people are working at home than ever, supply bottlenecks are creating the worst inflation in 30 years, and people are more ill-tempered than ever.

In October, the American Psychiatric Association released a study showing a dramatic increase in anxiety among Americans, hitting 62% of all Americans, up from ~35% over prior years. The main causes were their families’ safety (80%), systemic racism (76%), COVID-19 (75%), their health (73%), gun violence (73%), and the looming presidential election (72%). Youth suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 – 24.  According to Gallup, 51% of Americans can’t think of a news source that reports the news objectively.

The climate of fear created by the prosecutions has already pushed some talented scientists to leave the United States and made it more difficult for others to enter or stay, endangering America’s ability to attract new talent in science and technology from China and around the world.
Lawmakers say these findings are “alarming.”

Unruly passengers on flights and the mounting surliness of customers toward service workers are resulting in many workers not returning to jobs after the pandemic. School shootings have become regular occurrences: Columbine High School, West Nickel Mines Amish School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School.

A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September as workers took advantage of the surge in job openings across the country, a sign of how labor market imbalances continue to complicate the economic recovery 20 months into the pandemic. This is being called the Great Resignation. The number of people quitting in September constituted a whopping 3 percent of the workforce, according to the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. That number is up from the previous record set in August 2021 when 4.3 million people quit their jobs — about 2.9 percent of the workforce. In February 2020, before the big wave of pandemic-related layoffs began, 2.3 percent of workers quit their jobs.

The pandemic has deepened the rifts that exist between people from marital to work conflicts.  We are witnessing bad behavior acted out every day in our lives and on the news and with people being injured.  School and supermarket massacres are reflections of the disquiet.  Public officials are receiving death threats for performing their duties as Congressmen, election, and health officials. The movie Unhinged starring Russell Crowe shows the rage and fury manifested during the January 6 insurrection.

that the climate of fear created by the prosecutions has already pushed some talented scientists to leave the United States and made it more difficult for others to enter or stay, endangering America’s ability to attract new talent in science and technology from China and around the world.
Lawmakers say our findings are “startling.”

The new statistics reflect how severely in flux the labor market remains after the pandemic upended the course of business and life across the country in 2020.

How Americans feel about the economy roughly translates to how they feel about their politics. Factory workers, nurses, and school bus drivers are among the tens of thousands of Americans who walked off jobs in October, 2021 amid a surge of labor activism that economists and labor leaders have dubbed “Striketober.” The strike drives stem from the new leverage workers hold in the nation’s tight job market.

Shortages and Supply Lines

Climate change leads to changes in economic life. The same is beginning to hold true for everything from electronics to energy. What’s going on here? 

People are once again hoarding resulting in shortages on grocery shelves because of the supply-chain crunch.  Gas prices are high.

Consumer prices surged 6.8 percent in the year leading into November and 0.8 percent last month alone as a roaring economy overwhelmed struggling supply chains and fueled inflation, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

Consumer prices surged 6.8 percent in the year 2021 leading into November and 0.8 percent last month alone as a roaring economy overwhelmed struggling supply chains and fueled inflation, according to data released by the Labor Department.

You can search the keywords “supply chain management” on this database.

The continued and expanded use of nonrenewable natural resources will lead to their growth in shorter supply with sharply rising prices, or pricing above what most people can pay will worsen the economies of the world.  Some commodities may not be obtainable. China controls the supply of all 16 strategically critical rare-earth metals. In fact, 96% of global mining output for rare-earth metals comes from within China’s borders.

On the horizon is robots doing all production work, including manufacturing replacement robots. This can lead to massive unemployment, and the reduction in the share of income going to human labor, probably accompanied by increasing inequality. The economy is undergoing such massive changes there’s a big mismatch at the moment between the jobs available and jobs workers take.  Why does America have 8.4 million unemployed when there are 10 million job openings?

Consumers no longer instinctively trust the words of companies from which they have previously purchased goods or services. Instead, businesses need to demonstrate efforts towards key initiatives before consumers reach for their wallets. 85% of consumers have changed their minds about purchasing from a company because they felt it did not do enough to properly address climate change,

Shortages of semiconductor chips,  crucial materials, and staff are delaying the deployment of 5G infrastructure. What’s happened? Three factories — each hit in a different way. The one in Japan caught fire due to an equipment malfunction The one in Texas was hit by a historic snowstorm, which knocked out power for days. The one in Taiwan is being affected by the worst drought in half a century — and microchips require huge amounts of water to manufacture. Supply chain disruptions are stalling the delivery of goods, ranging from computer chips and medicines to meat and lumber. These shortages have been caused by the pandemic.

The “chip shortage” is something that the world doesn’t really grasp yet, in its full importance and magnitude. It is the first climate catastrophe-related shortage to hit us at a civilizational, global level. In a world of stable temperatures, guess what, we’d probably still have microchips to power our cars and gadgets and AV studios because factories wouldn’t be losing power or be so parched they don’t have enough water. But they are — and so we do have a microchip shortage that has been caused by climate change, aka global warming.

As the price of energy rises, the price of everything has to rise, too. Our economies are still about 80% dependent on fossil fuels. The problem isn’t the electricity grid, as you might think. It’s that making things like steel and cement and glass still use gas. The world has just one fossil fuel-free steel factory so far.  The Energy Information Agency forecasts that by 2023, the nation will set a new annual record for oil extraction: 4.6 billion barrels. Plans to build more than 200 new natural gas power plants are in the works.

In October 2021 the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach hit a fresh record of 100 vessels floating off the coast waiting to dock and unload, data from the Marine Exchange indicated.

The pandemic has hastened the disruption of supply lines.  Microchips, the sets of circuits hosted on small flat pieces of silicon, are intrinsic to industrial civilization: they are used in computers, cars, mobile phones, home appliances, and virtually all other electronic equipment. Chipmakers were usually able to keep pace with the growing demand for chips in products like automobiles and home electronics.  We already had a shortage of microchips because of COVID-19. Roughly 91% of the contract chipmaking business is located in Asia with a handful of foundries that account for most of the world’s chip fabrication.

As the world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many factories closed with it, making the supplies needed for chip manufacturing unavailable for months. Increased demand for consumer electronics caused shifts that rippled up the supply chain. A recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explains that this “will clearly lead to delays in the distribution of microchips and will presumably have an adverse impact on the semiconductor and computer industries. Now we are learning that new car production is in suspense because of chip shortages.

Shortages are immediately felt because of long supply lines. Beginning in the 1970s, major corporations went to China, India, Brazil, and other places far away from where goods could be produced at a much lower cost. That is why we have long supply chains.

The U.S. inventory restocking cycle is being dragged out by power constraints in China. Output from factories is being curtailed by widespread electricity rationing due to a shortfall of natural gas and coal supplies — making it even more likely that the U.S. inventory replenishment cycle will persist well into next year.

The raw materials required to create EV batteries – lithium, cobalt, and nickel – are up. Lithium carbonate alone has gone up 400% in the last year alone. Then, with demand for EVs and energy storage on the rise, are ticking prices skyward. The inflection point for EV battery prices to become competitive with gas-powered vehicles is about $100/kWh.

“How long will this last? Until bottlenecks are removed at the ports. It will probably not return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

We are changing in other ways, too. Women now make up close to 60% of US college enrollees, a record, The Wall Street Journal reported. NYU professor Scott Galloway told CNN that the gap is leading to a “mating crisis. This will leave many unmarried and lonely.

Agriculture

The Department of

Agriculture lists the ways climate change threatens America’s food supply: Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, more pests and disease, reduced soil quality, fewer pollinating insects, and more storms and wildfires will combine to reduce crops and livestock.Wildfires are likely to increase by a third by 2050, warns the United Nations.

To address those challenges, the department calls for more research into climate threats and better communication of those findings to farmers.

The plan is also candid about the limits of what can be done. In response to drought, for example, farmers can build new irrigation systems, and governments can build new dams. But irrigation is expensive, the department notes, and dams affect the ecosystems around them.

Transportation

Climate change also threatens Americans’ ability to move within and between cities, restricting not just mobility but the transportation of goods that drive the economy. In a list of potential effects from climate change, the Department of Transportation notes that rising temperatures will make it more expensive to build and maintain roads and bridges.

And the experience of getting around will become slower and more frustrating. As hotter days cause asphalt to degrade, congestion will increase as traffic slows. Severe weather events will “require flight cancellations, sometimes for extended periods of time,” and more heat will force planes to fly shorter distances and carry less weight.

Some of the effects the transportation department anticipates are dangerous. They include “more frequent/severe flooding of underground tunnels” and “increased risk of vehicle crashes in severe weather.”

Even the quality of driving could get worse. The plan warns of “decreased driver/operator performance and decision-making skills, due to driver fatigue as a result of adverse weather.”

Cars swept over a bridge by heavy rains and flooding in Waverly, Tenn., in August.

 

Even the quality of driving could get worse. The plan warns of “decreased driver/operator performance and decision-making skills, due to driver fatigue as a result of adverse weather.”

Sometimes, the plans demonstrate how much work remains. The Department of Energy, for example, said it has assessed the climate risks for just half of its sites, which range from advanced research laboratories to storage facilities for radioactive waste from the nuclear weapons program.

“DOE’s nuclear security mission is critical to national security and is also largely conducted at DOE sites that are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions,” the department’s plan says. “DOE’s environmental mission could also experience disruptions if facilities dedicated to radioactive waste processing and disposal are impacted by climate hazards.”

The department says it’s able to address that threat but doesn’t go into specifics. “DOE has a well-established hazard assessment and adaptation process focused on its high-hazard nuclear facilities. This process ensures that the most critical facilities are well protected from climate risks,” the plan states.

COVID-D

Despite what is approaching five million deaths from of COVID-19, the Global Risks Report 2021, it is global warming that makes up the bulk of this year’s list of risks, which the report describes as “an existential threat to humanity.”  It is a sad commentary on the stubbornness of the unvaccinated to get vaccinated than unvaccinated people have an 11 times higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people, according to data posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the loss of wilderness comes the reduced pollination of crops, the depletion of soils, poorer air, and water supplies becoming scarce.

The lockdowns caused a drop in carbon emissions, but as economies start to recover, emissions will soar.

Most people have difficulty grasping the magnitude of the environmental calamities that we likely face.   Saving ourselves will require the most significant technological change in history. We need technology to replace the extractive and polluting industries that will produce the food and resources we need to live.

It means ending the use of fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energies such as solar, wind, and battery storage that are much cheaper than we thought years ago. Solar panels will be everywhere. By 2050, 96% of vehicles will be electric, supported by a national network of charging stations. Virtually all energy in homes will be electric. Gas may disappear completely from kitchens and its use will be reduced for hot water systems and household heating.

Controlling CO2 output must be done; however, some impacts of global warming are not reversible things like sea-level rise. Human activity is producing irreversible damage to several environmental constraints necessary to human life.  These are biodiversity loss, nitrogen cycle change, groundwater depletion, ocean acidification, and peak phosphorous.

We rely on a host of organisms for food, medicine, shelter, and clothing; but as biodiversity diminishes, so do our basic necessities.  Climate change is forcing some animals to move. Up to one million plant and animal species are facing extinction due to human activity.

We are overfishing, overhunting, and over-harvesting the earth. Overexploitation destroys biodiversity. Deforestation is another contributor to biodiversity loss; human demand for land development, fossil and wood fuels, and building materials result in the loss of 18 million square acres of forest each year.

Life on earth depends on balance.  The Earth and its atmosphere maintain an energy balance by either absorbing incoming radiation or reflecting it energy back into space.

Nitrogen 

78% of the earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen. All organisms — including humans — require nitrogen for survival. The natural nitrogen balance incorporates nitrogen into the peptides and amino acids essential to life.   Agricultural and industrial practices have dramatically altered the earth’s natural nitrogen cycle.

Synthetic fertilizers, industrial pollution, combustion of fossil fuels, vehicle exhaust doubles the natural conversion of nitrogen to ammonia and nitrates every year.  Nitrous oxide is the greenhouse gas N2O that results in photochemical smog covering large regions.

Fertilizers Cause More Than 2% of Global Emissions

The excess of nitrogen results in losses of soil nutrients, such as calcium and potassium, essential for soil fertility, the mass killings of saltwater fish, thus reducing the food supply and oceanic biodiversity. It increases the acidification of soils, streams, and lakes greatly increases the transfer of nitrogen through rivers to estuaries and coastal oceans.

The consequences of human-caused changes to the nitrogen cycle appear grim.

Human activity is producing irreversible damage to several planetary limits necessary to human life are biodiversity loss, nitrogen cycle change, groundwater depletion, ocean acidification, and peak phosphorous.

We’ve already lost 33% of the Earth’s topsoil

Alone, each of these crises is enough to precipitate widespread human suffering. Together, along with climate change, they present the gravest threat in the history of humanity to the survival of our species.

Biodiversity Loss

Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. Human beings rely on a host of organisms for food, medicine, shelter, and clothing; as biodiversity diminishes, so do our basic necessities.

Deforestation is a principal contributor to biodiversity loss; clearing land and using timber for building materials, fossil and wood fuels results in the loss of 18 million square acres of forest each year.

A 2014 study estimates that roughly 30 percent of both the world’s languages and animal species have declined between 1970 and 2009. Up to one million more plant and animal species are facing extinction due to human activity, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Overexploitation — such as overfishing, overhunting, and over-harvesting — also threatens the earth’s biodiversity.

Ocean Acidification

The world’s oceans absorb roughly 30% of the carbon dioxide that human activity releases into the atmosphere. Because of oceanic CO2 absorption, ocean acidity has increased 30% globally since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Shellfish are particularly vulnerable to rising seawater acidity. Over a billion people currently rely on marine life for protein. Unless the world converts to clean energy in the immediate future; the world’s climate and food reserves are equally at stake.

Peak Phosphorus

Carbon emissions affect more than global temperatures.  While nitrogen contamination imperils ocean life, phosphorus pollution threatens freshwater fish. Phosphate ores primarily come from ancient salt deposits in seabeds and are used to make artificial fertilizers and detergents.

Phosphorus is also a key ingredient in human bone. We derive phosphorus in protein foods such as milk and milk products and meat, beans, lentils, and nuts. Grains, especially whole grains provide phosphorus. Phosphorus can be derived in smaller amounts in vegetables and fruit.

In the long run, phosphorus always returns to the oceans, but phosphate deposits replenish at a rate drastically slower than we consume it. Without it, malnutrition is the result. Global phosphorus shortages are predicted by as early as 2040. Peak phosphorus is, therefore, an even more pressing problem than climate change.

Global warming is just one of the crises to our survival. Biodiversity loss, the nitrogen cycle, groundwater depletion, ocean acidification, and peak phosphorus each threaten our existence, and taken together could potentially spell our extinction. Carbon sequestration is just one of the technologies we must master to survive the coming environmental crises.

Homeland Security

For the Department of Homeland Security, climate change means the risk of large numbers of climate refugees — people reaching the U.S. border, pushed out of their countries by a mix of long-term challenges like drought or sudden shocks like a tsunami.

Defense

Climate change will lead to new sources of conflict, and also make it harder for the military to operate, the Department of Defense wrote in its climate plan.

Water shortages could even become a new source of tension between the U.S. military overseas and the countries where troops are based. At DOD sites outside the United States, “military water requirements might compete with local water needs, creating potential areas of friction or even conflict.”

But learning to operate during extreme weather should also be viewed as a new type of weapon, the plan says, one that can help the United States prevail over enemies. “This enables U.S. forces to gain distinct advantages over potential adversaries,” the plan reads, “if our forces can operate in conditions where others must take shelter or go to ground.”

The Department of Commerce, which runs the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, said that as the effects of climate change become more severe, it expects a surge in applications for patents for “climate change adaptation-related technologies.” Such a surge “would impact the department’s ability to process such applications in a timely manner.

Climate Chaos Has Arrived

I watched a movie last night showing the world entering a new ice age. The movie was made in 2004. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago, today’s headlines were the predictions of fringe extremists. Now they’ve come true. The proof is all around us.  C The cascading impacts of climate change will affect every sector of the economy. Some sectors including fossil fuels, utilities, travel and leisure, housing, forestry, mining, and agriculture can be expected to be particularly hard hit, with the financial sector deeply linked to them all.

The Arctic Is Sweltering

Temperatures in Siberia climbed to 118ºF this year — an almost unthinkable level of heat. Marine life is migrating to cooler waters. Arctic sea ice reached its lowest levels in the last two years. Between 1979 and 2020, the report found the Arctic lost an area of ice about six times the size of Germany.

 Extinctions and Plagues Are on the Rise

Warmer waters are also causing the populations of some sea-dwelling species to shrink. It found that sole, European lobster, sea bass, and edible crabs were being adversely affected by extreme heat fluctuations in the North Sea.

Toxic microbial blooms thrived during the Great Dying, the most severe extinction in Earth’s history, and they are proliferating again due to human activity. Fish die as a result of algal blooms in Florida.

Millions of mice have created havoc for Australian farmers. In recording its wettest November on record, the humid conditions enlarged the rodent population creating a boom in snake and spider numbers.

Snake numbers increased after wet, humid weather. Snakes prey on mice. Wet weather is also the perfect climate for bugs and frogs, food sources for hungry snakes or spiders. It’s a perfect storm for mice, snakes, spiders, bugs, and frogs, and a plague on people.

Power Lines and Crucial Infrastructure Are Melting

In the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures are reliably in the 70s and 80s, temperatures have exceeded 100º in the past few weeks. Citizens all across the region lost power— 9,000 in Spokane, Washington alone.

Roads are buckling as the heat melts asphalt.

Buildings Are Collapsing

Experts believe that the collapse of beachside condos is due to the rise of the sea level directly underneath the foundation of those beachside condos. Miami faces the worst risk of any coastal city in the world, per a recent report.

Alaska is Experiencing Ice Quakes

Because of the heatwave across Alaska, the state is reporting “icequakes” — seismic activity triggered by glaciers melting too fast. Ice melting, refreezing, and expanding enough to cause quakes. 25 miles off of Juneau, the magnitude of the ice quake was 2.7.

Detroit’s Streets Became a River

Last week, Detroit experienced a storm that flooded the city with 7 inches of rainfall in only a few hours. More than 1,000 cars had to be abandoned in the highway flooding as they had no other choice.

Hydropower Plants in Danger as Reservoirs Drain

One reservoir, in particular, Lake Oroville in California (the state’s second-largest), announced it would be forced to shut down the connected hydropower plant for the first time ever.   Intense dry heat and unrelenting drought lower the water levels in the reservoir and it simply cannot sustain the plant.

We can’t change weather patterns once they’re already happening. We can’t, for example, reroute Detroit’s rain and give it to California.

The climate crisis is here in spades. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the key 1.5 degrees Celsius  (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold in the fight to stop climate change will be crossed within the next 15 years.

Now the world must come together to confront these multiple crises. It’s in this context that the Biden infrastructure proposals make sense. It’s a matter of survival. We’re already dealing with calamitous weather events and so we have the choice of immediate sacrifice or near and long-term peril.

Here are some of the terms and key issues that will be discussed at the event ran from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13. The  Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. First held in 1995, it also serves as the meeting of parties to the 1992 Kyoto Protocol that first committed countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and those that signed on to the 2015 Paris Agreement. Governments meeting in the French capital six years ago agreed on a target of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5C (2.7F), by the end of this century compared with pre-industrial times.

Faced with new research showing a significant gap between current commitments to cut planet-heating emissions and the Paris agreement’s 1.5°C target, negotiators from nearly 200 countries on Saturday struck a deal that critics say falls short of what is needed to tackle the climate emergency.  The failure of the countries of the world to put their full efforts into financing climate transformation — including mitigation, adaptation, and losses and damages — weakens our chances of avoiding the most calamitous effects of global warming.

More movies and fiction and non-fiction books and games will make water their central theme as the environmental crisis is recognized and commercialized.

More than two million people have been killed by storms, floods, droughts, and heatwaves since 1970, according to WMO data, as Reuters reported. The data showed that these weather-related natural disasters resulted in $3.64 trillion in damages worldwide. Since the 1970s early warning systems for extreme weather helped reduce the number of people killed by natural disasters by 76 percent, Reuters reported.

As wildfires worsen and sea levels rise, growing numbers of Americans are moving to places such as Vermont and the Appalachian Mountains. These are seen as safe havens from climate change. This population movement will intensify in the coming decades.

Healthy ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands have an amazing ability to remove planet-warming emissions from the atmosphere and lock them securely underground. Experts call them “nature-based solutions” to climate change. To save Earth 30 percent of the planet must be protected. Such conservation efforts must double by 2030 to prevent dangerous warming and unraveling of ecosystems.

Extremely uneven and inequitable impacts of climate change mean that it affected people differently based on their location and people may respond in radically different ways. The burden weighs us down and curtails opportunities and possibilities.  This requires addressing both violence and material shortages and other outcomes like contamination.

The latest climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends a 2x increase in investment in climate technologies. This goes beyond producing more paper straws.

Eliminating air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels would prevent more than 50,000 premature deaths and provide more than $600 billion in health benefits in the United States every year, according to a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

Published in the journal GeoHealth, the study reports the considerable health benefits of removing from the air harmful fine particulates, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produced by electricity generation, transportation, industrial activities, and building functions such as heating and cooking. Highway vehicles make up the largest single share.

These economic activities from coal, oil, and natural gas are also major sources of carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, so cutting back on their emissions provides additional benefits.

“We are trying to shift mindsets from burdens to benefits,” said Jonathan A. Patz, a professor of health and the environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

“Our work provides a sense of the scale of the air quality health benefits that could accompany deep decarbonization of the U.S. energy system,” said Nicholas A. Mailloux, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the Nelson Institute. “Shifting to clean energy sources can provide enormous benefit for public health in the near term while mitigating climate change in the longer term.”

The study uses models from the Environmental Protection Agency, notably its CO-Benefits Risk Assessment, or COBRA, to look at the impact of local, state, and national policy on separate areas around the country. It shows that while the cost of overhauling energy industries can be local, so, too, are the benefits.

“Between 32 percent and 95 percent of the health benefits from eliminating emissions in a region will remain in that region,” the study says. On average, slightly more than two-thirds of the health benefits of removing emissions in a region stay in that region.

The Southwest, for example, would retain 95 percent of the benefits if it moved alone to eliminate fine particulate matter. The Mountain States, however, would retain only a third of their benefits, which would flow to large population centers downwind.

What we do is look at all at once, if you were to remove fossil fuel emissions from these different sectors, how many lives would be saved, how many emissions avoided, and the numbers are pretty big,” Patz said.

“The report highlights the air quality benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning the energy system away from fossil fuels,” said Susan Anenberg, director of George Washington University’s Climate and Health Institute, who was not involved in the study. In addition, she said, “it helps us to think about policies and what level of policies are needed to address this problem.”

Patz said that “people look at this as such a huge challenge, but when you look at the health repercussions of switching to clean energy, the benefits are enormous.”

The U.S. plummeted in international rankings of action on climate change due to the rollback of environmental protections during the Trump Administration. In particular, the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement weakened methane emissions rules, according to a report released on June 1, 2022, by Yale and Columbia University researchers.

U.S. cities last year announced 21 projects to turn “brownfields” which include transformed closed landfills and other contaminated lands into solar farms, also called “brightfield.” Brownfields are often located in “economically distressed communities. Transforming these into sources of clean power, jobs, and economic opportunity can play a key role in revitalizing these neighborhoods.

The Supreme Court has dealt another blow to the Government’s ability to o regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions by the  Environmental Protection Agency/

A 6-3 ruling by the Supreme Court restricting the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit power plant emissions is the latest blow to U.S. efforts to fight climate change, contributing to a renewed sense of pessimism that the U.S. political system will address the issue at the federal level.  In its ruling, the majority said, ” Only Congress has the power to make “a decision of such magnitude and consequence.”

The decision is likely to have broad implications. While the EPA will still be able to take some action in regulating emissions, more wide-reaching programs, like setting emissions caps to encourage a shift away from coal, will be constrained in the future. The ruling deals a major blow to the federal government’s ability to take action on climate change as the world continues to set new emissions records and makes changing the composition of the Supreme Court more imperative.

Congress has adopted the first climate change measure in our history.   It invests in technologies that would bolster various types of energy including fossil fuels, renewables, nuclear hydrogen, and energy storage.  It also invests in reducing both domestic emissions of planet-warming carbon and methane, and in global emissions reductions.

Meanwhile, blackouts are growing more frequent in the United States.

Republicans are fighting a social movement directed at the financial sector to address systemic issues like climate change. Regressive initiatives in Florida, West Virginia, and Texas are targeting powerhouse Wall Street firms they say are engaging in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, which they view to be harmful to their states’ economies. Some state and regional regulators often have political incentives to fight against changes to the power grid.

Climate change is man-made. So man can undo or mitigate much of what we have done. We can choose to save our lives and those of our children and their children. Future cities composed of fire-resistant, high-tech wooden buildings can counter the climate impacts of the coming urbanization boom. Half of the world’s population currently lives in towns and cities, a number that is expected to increase to 85 percent by 2100.

The study in Nature Communications builds on a growing architectural and engineering movement that sees wood as not only a more sustainable building material than concrete and steel — but in many ways a superior one.

Housing this many people in 20th-century-style mid-rise buildings would mean a staggering hike in carbon emissions, as it would lead to huge increases in the production of concrete and steel — the production of which is already the source of large amounts of greenhouse gasses.

The alternative is housing the growing urban population in mid-rise buildings — is four to ten stories — made out of wood.”

COVID-D is the Latest Impetus to a Changing Economy

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the permanent closure of 480,000 American businesses. This includes approximately 20,000 small businesses in California alone. Millions of employees lost their jobs as a result of these closures.

A lot of pre-pandemic jobs are gone forever.  Low-wage jobs in marginal companies or marginal sectors are gone as companies have gone bankrupt and jobs in some sectors have been emptied out. While more adaptive companies are taking some of the failed business’s places, they employ fewer workers. Over 100 million people in eight of the world’s largest economies may need to switch occupations by 2030, according to McKinsey & Co.

More than 2.3 million women have left the U.S. labor force since February 2020, sending us back to participation levels last seen in 1988.  It took less than a year to erase more than three decades of progress for America’s working women during the Pandemic. Women—especially women of color, who are already the most economically vulnerable—have borne the brunt of the pandemic-era job losses, accounting for more than 53% of net U.S. jobs shed in the past year.

Many of the businesses that closed were service-oriented businesses, schools, and daycares centers that rely on the female workforce. Complicating this is the country’s lack of affordable childcare or paid leave for working parents; employers’ persistent failures to close the gender and racial gaps in what they pay workers. Those most likely to suffer skill gaps are the less educated, women, ethnic minorities, and the young.

Here’s a look at employment in various industries:

1. Leisure and hospitality jobs

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 16.7 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 5.0 percent

Restaurants, bars, and stadiums temporarily were shut down or operating on the limited capacity for most of the year, many workers at these businesses lost jobs. In December 2020, there were 1.3 million fewer workers in these fields were than there were one year earlier.

2. Support jobs for mining and oil and gas extraction

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 13.1 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 3.8 percent

Companies in these industries responded to shifts in demand by laying off or furloughing workers in support positions. There were nearly 58,000 fewer workers in these roles in December 2020 than there were one year earlier.

3. Travel and transportation jobs

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 8.4 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 2.6 percent

Because fewer people felt comfortable traveling in 2020, there were 116,500 fewer jobs in air transportation in December 2020 than there were one year earlier. Railroads shed at least 18,900 jobs during that same period. Even truck drivers experienced layoffs because businesses that were temporarily shuttered needed fewer supplies.

4. Construction jobs

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 9.6 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 5.0 percent

The construction industry lost nearly 441,000 jobs between December 2019 and December 2020, due to a slowdown in renovations of office buildings as more companies shifted to remote work, vacating space in buildings or entire buildings themselves..

5. Motion picture and music industry jobs

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 6.4 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 1.9 percent

Hollywood lost more than 110,000 jobs between December 2019 and December 2020 because many movie theaters nationwide closed. It’s hard to make movies and TV shows when safety precautions mean cutting down on large casts and crews on the sets.

6. Laundry, dry-cleaning, other personal service jobs

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 7.4 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 3.2 percent

The large increase in the number of people working from home this year led to a big drop-off in the demand for dry-cleaning and laundry services. Those occupations lost more than 228,000 jobs since December 2019.

7. Self-employed workers

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 6.7 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 2.7 percent

8. Jobs manufacturing food packaging and processing,, clothing and other goods

  • Unemployment rate, December 2020: 5.5 percent
  • Unemployment rate, December 2019: 3.1 percent

The pandemic has accelerated the use of robots in both manufacturing and in the services industry as workers and customers need to be protected from the spread of disease. While the use of robots may generate productivity growth, millions of jobs will be threatened and there is a question as to whether enough new jobs will be created in the process.

35% of the US workforce is doing freelance work. There are Uber-driving teachers and law school grads reviewing documents for $20 an hour—or less; Ivy Leaguers who live on food stamps. People make do with short-term contracts or shift work.

Jobs are often subpar, featuring little stability and fringe benefits. Once upon a time, only the working poor took second jobs to stay afloat. More middle-class are taking second jobs in order to stay in the middle class.

Studies show remote workers are working more. A team with Harvard Business School, using meeting and email metadata of roughly 3.1 million employees around the world, found the pandemic workday was, on average, 48.5 minutes longer.  Microsoft found its employees were more often working at night, through lunch, and over the weekends.

Workers in occupations that bring them in close physical proximity to other people (co-workers, patients, customers, etc.), particularly when working in indoor settings or with shared transport or accommodation, are more exposed to and at higher risk of COVID-19 resulted in many people leaving their fields.

Some employees are choosing not to return to the office, by any means necessary. If that means quitting their jobs, some are comfortable doing so. Others made jobless are bewildered. “When you’re 50 years old, to start something new is daunting.” While working for yourself can offer the freedom and flexibility of working from your home or apartment, it also makes it more challenging to find clients with so many businesses closed or operating with reduced workforces. Marketing and serving people face-to-face is more difficult because many people are wary of wary to meeting face to face.

Automation has given a bigger share of the market to larger firms, which can afford more automation and historically pay a smaller percentage of earnings to workers in favor of shareholders and owners. The World Economic Forum said last fall that 50% of employers plan to step up automation at their firms.

People lacking unions, church communities and nearby close relatives to support them, people feel isolated and stranded. Their labor has sputtered into sporadic contingency.

Across all sectors and occupations, four in 10 employees now say they’ve considered changing their current place of work. More Americans are telling their boss to shove it. Retail workers are quitting at record rates for higher-paying work. Is the workplace undergoing a revolution? More Americans quit in May 2021 than any other month on record going back to the beginning of the century, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For every 100 workers in hotels, restaurants, bars, and retailers, about five of them quit last month.

Low-wage workers are not the only ones eyeing the door. In May, more than 700,000 workers in the bureau’s mostly white-collar category of “professional and business services” left their job — the highest monthly number ever. Airport merchants and grocery stores are automating, with self-check stations and other touchless technology. There is also less staff behind the scenes.

Manufacturing jobs that require people to work side by side create problems of maintaining physical distancing. As a result, there were a number of COVID-19 outbreaks in meatpacking and poultry processing. Apparel manufacturing businesses shed jobs. With more people working at home and also not going out at night, the need for new, the demand for stylish clothing dipped. Some employers are automating because fewer and fewer people want to work on the assembly line for $15 an hour.

  • The pandemic has brought about many other changes in how we live:

With nearly all public gatherings called off, Americans are seeking out entertainment on streaming services like Netflix and YouTube and looking to connect with one another on social media outlets like Facebook.

They are connected by Zooming or Skyping to stay in touch. With the rise of social distancing, we are seeking out new ways to connect, mostly through video chat. Meetings are happening on Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams.

In the past few years, users of these services were increasingly moving to their smartphones, creating an industrywide focus on mobile. Now that we are spending our days at home, with computers close at hand, many Americans appear to have grown weary of squinting at those little phone screens.

Facebook, Netflix, and YouTube have all seen their websites grow while the numbers on their phone apps stagnate or drop off.   Data from Similar Web and Apologia both draw their traffic numbers from several independent sources to create data that can be compared across the internet.

Home-schooled and isolated from others their age, younger generations experience a long period of confusion and uncertainty because they spend so much time engulfed in tech worlds.

Inflation reached its highest level in more than 30 years in October 2021.

The longer people are out of work the more their skills atrophy in a process known as hysteresis.

Global Warming and Climate Change are Facts – Now How to Counter the Climate Deniers and Deal with Apathy

Global warming is existential for us as a species at least at the current state of our industrialization. As long our homes are not in danger of wildfires, flooding, our drinking water plentiful and clean, people can ignore or be apathetic about the warnings about global warming.  A student who does not care one way or the other if he passes a class is an example of a student who has apathy towards the class.

Apathy is a lack of emotion or interest largely and a defense mechanism against underlying anxieties and a sense of powerlessness against the inevitable. When faced with environmental catastrophes, whether local or global, people tend to cope with their anxieties by pretending not to care.

The phrase “public apathy” was coined in the 1940s. If the public is disinterested in politics or then they are “apathetic.”  Apathetic is applied to people who are experiencing complex and wide-ranging emotions about what is happening to them, the outcome of which is inaction.

In addition to our own personal and family stuff, people are dealing with pandemics, educational issues, crime, political controversies, among other things.

If apathy and denial are symptoms of deeper unconscious processes, then public awareness campaigns no longer work, especially in Western democracies where decisions made from the top-down often backfire with political polarization.

Anxiety, mourning, loss, grief, and despair can all lead to not only apathy but active denial. Those people who you think are just ignorant or greedy and act it on the surface may not be. They might just feel hopeless or disconnected. This doesn’t only happen with ecological disasters. It can happen with local recessions such as the losses that turned much of the rust-belt (cities in states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, etc.) into an economically depressed and abandoned region. Think of the Flint water crisis.  Workers are replaced by robots or their jobs shipped overseas. Faced with uncaring leadership and monied residents decamping for sunnier and wealthier states, this hopelessness led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, a populist who offered false hope and did nothing to slow or stop the decline.

Public campaigns intended to ignite widespread change frequently fail because they do not address the psychological “barriers to action”. In other words, if you want people to change their behavior to become more environmentally friendly or push for political change to that effect, you must understand why they don’t respond as you would like. While we can talk about why people don’t act as they should, those reasons often obscure the real barriers which can be far more complex than the surface reasons.

We embrace things that make our lives easier or more comfortable than are made to feel guilty about it.

Psychology has found that when threatened people often respond irrationally, especially when those threatening situations are modern. We simply didn’t evolve to manage long-term, regional or global problems. People are fully capable of worrying about the climate and outwardly denying or saying that there is nothing they can do about it even when both of those are false.

It is no accident that George Orwell’s 1984 (written in 1948) and the concept “doublethink” were published at the same time that Sigmund Freud was publishing on ego-splitting. Despite falling out of favor in many arenas, Freud’s ideas are relevant to understanding the psychological impact of global warming and climate change. The sense of impending doom or, in the aftermath, the trauma of lived environmental catastrophe creates a need to process it all while still functioning in a society that continues to contribute to that catastrophe.

While some of us are online expressing our fears and anxieties about a world in peril, a great number of others cannot process the loss — loss of weather or climate of the past, clean air, and plentiful, clean water, and of pristine forests, rivers, and lakes. These create psychological defense mechanisms that any successful public campaign needs to diffuse. Shaming campaigns are hardly effective.

We have seen the standard of living rise through the industrial age. Knowing that the fruits and comforts of this age come at such a terrible cost can lead to intense psychic conflict. Unnamable terror becomes unthinkable, and feelings become fractured. People cope by denial or projecting onto others. We say it’s not happening or it’s somebody else’s fault. Shifting agency from ourselves to others (politicians, billionaires, executives, and other nations) makes us feel better in the short term but only makes us sink deeper into our sense of helplessness and apathy.

The way out is to radically rethink our approach to public awareness. First, we must recognize the internal psychic conflict people are experiencing. Loss, mourning, grief, and anxiety all play a role in dealing with both what once was (say a pristine and flourishing environment containing ecological abundance), the desire for it to be that way again (often with a denial that anything going on is out of the ordinary), and the fear that there is nothing that can be done (and therefore nothing need to be done).

We need to rethink apathy. We don’t need to get people to care more. We don’t even need to inform them more. They already care. They already know a lot about what’s going on, and more information can just drive the psychic conflict deeper. That’s how you get conspiracy theories and organized denial campaigns. That is public awareness doing more harm than good.

Moralizing climate change and shaming people for not acting better because they are “apathetic” does not necessarily lead to positive action. Rather it can strengthen defenses and have exactly the opposite effect.

Lertzmann suggests that people need to find a “home” for their concerns and desire to help. Public awareness campaigns often seek to instruct people as to what they ought and ought not to be doing but don’t really “think outside the box” in terms of finding that home. Environmental protection isn’t a black and white activity with a list of things that help and a list of things that don’t.

People who do engage in this black and white thinking often feed their own apathy. They assume that if they aren’t or don’t feel they can be doing certain specific things that the “experts” want them to do then they should do nothing. They project onto experts their own feeling of helplessness and defend against it.

People have a psychological need to explain why they aren’t doing more in order to offset their feelings. People are full of excuses. They say all recycling just ends up in the trash, so don’t recycle. Renewable power is an eyesore or impractical, so use fossil fuel. Electric cars take too long to charge (depends on the battery and charging station) or just use fossil fuels from powerplants (not if those powerplants use renewables) or don’t last (neither do ordinary cars) or only the rich can afford them (not if manufacturers get on board), so buy gas ones. Environmental organizations are only interested in money or full of “tree huggers”, so don’t support them. All of these reasons are defenses coming from a much deeper awareness of the problem than a truly apathetic person would have.

People enjoy sharing stories like the one you are reading on social media. It feels like doing something. And you know what? It is. And more importantly, it is finding a home for that concern so it doesn’t slide down into projection and defense mechanisms. But those of us who are creating these public campaigns have to be careful about what we share.

Lertzmann argues that the central feature of engaging people with the environment such as climate change is creativity. That is, if people can participate creatively, they can avoid their psychological barriers because they are no longer subject to the guilt and conflict of not being able to do the “right things” that they believe is expected of them. When people do find ways to contribute and feel that they are contributing (have agency), their sense of loss and anxiety melts into pride and joy.

Look for example at the proposal for a water pipeline from the rain-drenched gulf coast to the drought-stricken American West. Perhaps if they can do it for oil, they can do it for water. That requires money, government support, and time.

With something like climate change, it is easy to feel like everything is hopeless, but that is untrue. It is easy to feel like there is nothing one person can do. But that is untrue. It is easy to feel like the solutions are too difficult for the ordinary person. It is easy to feel like the government or billionaires are the only ones with the power to fix things. That is absolutely untrue. What is required is outreach to people.

Outreach that simply focuses on consumer compliance —“ Do this”, “Buy that”, “Don’t Buy This” — will almost certainly fail. That said a little guilt can be good. It can help people do the right thing. A lot of guilt will lead to withdrawal and denial.

Outreach that is sensitive to the overwhelming problems we face and focuses on having good ideas and making contributions rather than compliance will have a much better chance of succeeding.

It also helps to encourage people to stay engaged with the natural world. Research shows that, when people feel disconnected from nature, they can lose the need to protect it. When they spend time outdoors, they feel a need to preserve it.

Anger can also be a good motivator. It is healthy and constructive to say “no!” to destructive practices. Feelings of moral responsibility, concern, sadness and depression over our own actions can be helpful as well — provided it leads us to think creatively. For it is in creating, not complying, that we will solve global warming and climate change.

Renewable energy use is growing rapidly. The leaders in Europe pledged to shift away from fossil fuels by 2030.  President Biden, with the support of major automakers, announced a plan that half of all new vehicles sold in the United States will be electric. Even China pledged it will strengthen pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reach carbon neutrality, which has been shaken by flooding that has displaced 13 million people. The disaster was caused by a slow-moving rainstorm—exactly the kind of weather that scientists say will occur even more frequently.

The climate scientists caution to not lose sight of the mission. Better to focus less on hand-wringing, they say, and more on getting to work. If we elect the right leaders, and they do the right things there is still time.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but you can turn empty buildings into homes and food

The Covid-19 pandemic has done far more Americans their lives than were killed in World War II.  It. The loss of income and vanished business has caused the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, decimating the U.S. economy.

We are undergoing massive shifts in our lives. Millions of jobs are going out of existence that will not come back. These include jobs in business offices, retail spaces, restaurants, and performance venues that closed permanently; more jobs are lost from digitization and alternate service delivery methods like drones and self-driving vehicles.  Nearly one in six restaurants have closed since March. Employment has dropped by 23 percent in the leisure and hospitality industries during the pandemic.  As 2020 ended, the number of the unemployed stood at 10.7 million,  and 8 million people fell into poverty in 2020.

For years, survey after survey has found that most people in the U.S. live paycheck to paycheck.  As the pandemic has worsened, a third of U.S. adults say they are having difficulty covering everyday costs such as food, rent or car payments. They face eviction, bankruptcy,  and hunger.

Long food lines have become normal

Eighty-five percent of consumers are paying more for groceries since the pandemic began. Fifty-four million Americans face food insecurity, an increase of 17 million from pre-pandemic levels. Food lines a mile long in America’s appear in America’s wealthiest counties.

 Not having a roof over your head is a human emergency

Census data for July 9-14, 2020, show that 13.8 million adults in rental housing — 1 in 5 renters — report being behind on rent. People paying their rent with credit cards has increased 70%. 12 million renters are now at least $5,850 behind in rent and utility payments. Rent debt could be as high as $70 billion.

President Biden has extended a freeze on evictions nationwide and a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for borrowers with federally guaranteed mortgages through the end of March. This is a temporary fix because as many as 40 million Americans cannot afford their homes – spending as much as half of their incomes on housing, making them at risk of losing their homes. (NPR)

Forced Life Style Changes

The pandemic altered where and how millions of people work. Americans have fled big cities in droves to escape the coronavirus pandemic, seeking more affordable homes and yard space for their families, home offices for parents, and designated areas for remote learning for their children. The main driver is that people want more space, prompting higher sales of luxury, suburban and rural homes, Surprising few want to return to downtown offices.

The Gallup Poll, which tracks worker attitudes found three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic, would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible.

Offices where once a thousand people working in them might have only 200 people working in the office and only 800 people working remotely. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution,  a majority of Americans say they prefer to work at home.

Many people can work-from-anywhere and many of them are searching for cheaper places to live and moving outside cities. More than 15.9 million people moved during the first six months of COVID-19.

Many jobs can be done outside without an office, such as property inspectors, community nurses, and municipal planners, and more jobs are being restructured, using technology, to be done away from their offices,  assuming their jobs have not gone of existence.

Instead of standing in lines at government offices, citizens can do much of their business with the government online, such as getting license applications, all kinds of forms, and documents from government websites. This, in turn, reduces the number of customer care employees required, working at counters and on the phone.

Americans are fleeing big cities to escape the coronavirus pandemic seeking more affordable homes and yard space for their families, home offices for working, and areas for remote learning for their children.

Many of them are staying, permanently or indefinitely. Escape means something different depending on whom you ask. Some seek protection from COVID, staying home for everything.

Many want more space, which pushes them out to cheaper areas. Wealthy people are more able to work remotely, accounting for higher sales of luxury, suburban and rural homes.

Homes with guesthouses or additional suites are selling as families take in their older parents. Many have taken elderly relatives out of nursing homes,

The exodus from cities reduces available jobs.  In New York City, restaurant and bar closures number into the thousands, taking jobs and tax revenue with them. In Washington, DC, just 5% of office workers had returned to the city as of this past summer, In other cities where revenue comes from wage and business taxes, funding for public services is in a particularly precarious state.

mid-October Gallup poll found one-third of Americans are still working from home amid COVID-19, with two-thirds of those remote workers hoping to continue remote work as economies recover. Given this, we can expect many empty and underused office spaces.

Meanwhile.  home prices continue to rise, thanks to low-interest rates and an insufficient housing inventory, putting home-ownership out of reach for countless numbers of people. For many, it’s a matter of having any kind of roof over their heads. Retrieved from Gallup on October 19, 2020

Dan Rather once said, “Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.

While the pandemic has reduced street and highway traffic, public transit revenue has fallen has been hit hard by the pandemic, resulting in disruptions that isolate people. Revenue for Taxi and Limousine Services declined 35.5% in 2020 as people have cut back travel due to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.  Reduced transportation contributes to the need to have housing and food where people live. Our roadways need repair and to be enabled to handle  21st Century traffic management and innovations like Personal Public Transportation Pods. It will take $1 trillion to repair the nation’s infrastructure because of deferred maintenance.  This includes fixing 47,000 of America’s 616,087 bridges that are “structurally deficient.”

Climate Change has caused energy crises, climate change, pollution, and the destruction of the natural habitat 

Climate change is adding to our economic misery – droughts are killing off crops and raise food prices. More frequent and longer heatwaves lead to illness and death, forest fires, and power outages. .   4 in 10 people are subject to being flooded out by rising sea levels and hurricanes and storms pushing farther inland. Extreme weather and fire risk are raising the cost of homeowner insurance to unaffordable levels. Trash accounts for about 3 percent to 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and recycling isn’t going to be enough to keep global warming below catastrophic levels. “Extreme heat episodes” are going to “increase in frequency and magnitude and length.” Indeed, scientists predict that by 2060, Phoenix will have 132 days — over a third of the year — with over 100 degree temperatures. Extreme heat limits the ability of airlines to take off and causes heat deaths. Resources are needed to convert recycled plastic into useful products. Corporations need to be responsible for how they impact the climate from cradle-to-grave.

British and US scientists think there may be a possible climate link to Covid-19 caused by rising temperatures that bring bat species carrying the virus into areas of human habitation.

America’s bridges are falling apart faster than expected

Data: The American Road & Transportation Builders Association; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Roughly a third of the nation’s 620,000 bridges — 36% — need major repair work or replacement, a new report finds.

Why it matters: Deferred maintenance, climate change and heavier-than-anticipated traffic are causing bridges to wear out earlier than expected, and engineers say not enough is being done to keep drivers safe.

Driving the news: More than 43,500 U.S. bridges are in poor enough condition to be deemed “structurally deficient,” according to the report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

  • Those bridges are crossed 167.5 million times a day.
  • Chunks of concrete fall from bridges with some regularity, and routine inspections often reveal problems that prompt authorities to shut down lanes of traffic or close off a bridge to heavy vehicles, to reduce the weight burden.
  • A bridge collapse last week in Pittsburgh — on the same day President Biden visited the city to talk about infrastructure — highlighted the problem, but engineers say it’s a bigger issue than many Americans may realize. At the current rate, it would take 30 years to fix all of America’s structurally deficient bridges. There’s progress being made — it’s just at a very slow pace,” says Alison Premo Black, senior vice president, and chief economist at ARTBA. “It’s just very disturbing that [accidents like Pittsburgh] can still happen despite all the steps being taken to keep the traveling public safe,” Black tells Axios.

What’s happening: Historic sums are about to be spent on bridge repair — more than $26.5 billion over five years — under Biden’s infrastructure law, the Department of Transportation announced in January.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called it “the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the Interstate highway system.”

Many bridges were built after World War II and were meant to last 100 years. But they’re falling apart ahead of schedule, due to combinations of extreme weather, the enormous growth of vehicle traffic, deferred maintenance, and a lack of coordinated oversight.

“You just have these cities which are growing to an unprecedented extent, and the infrastructure was never designed to handle the amount of traffic that these structures are expected to deal with every day,” Kevan Stone, executive director of the National Association of County Engineers, said.

What needs to be is the widespread installation of sensors that can help predict problems — which is happening in Europe but not the U.S.  Monitoring the actual behavior of a bridge versus how it’s supposed to behave together with physical inspections, will help the Department of Transportation to identify bridges at risk and prioritize repairs and replacement projects

Solutions Are Within Our Grasp

Unused buildings – many of which have been  made vacant because of workforce changes

Before the pandemic, retail space was overbuilt by up to 5% per capita in most cities. Brick-and-mortar stores even before the pandemic struggled to stay afloat in the age of e-commerce.  One out four existing shopping malls are expected to shut down in the next few years. Direct commercial real estate investment fell nearly 30% globally in the first six months of 2020.  More than one out of four rural hospitals are at immediate risk of closing.

The U.S. government alone owns an estimated 45,000 underused or underutilized buildings, plus abundant surplus land. Abandoned buildings create blight, inviting fires – 72 percent of all fires in these buildings are of incendiary or suspicious origin. Cities with low proportions of vacant land tended to have high numbers of abandoned structures. America’s supply of vacant land offers an opportunity to consider the potential of vacant land and abandoned structures serving as social and economic assets for cities.

Empty office buildings and shopping centers can be converted or rehabilitated to provide housing for millions of people.  One of the first steps in solving housing needs would be for entities like school districts to identify obsolete or no longer needed properties that can be re-purposed.  For example, school district officials in Kansas City found that their unused school buildings could be worth up to $15 million if sold or otherwise repurposed.

The Canadians are ahead of us in this. The province of Ontario was able to save almost $10 million in annual operating costs by selling more than 240 surplus properties valued at some $120 million. Some of those properties are now being repurposed for low-income and senior housing. Similarly, the city of Toronto launched an initiative to repurpose 18 city-owned properties into almost 13,000 affordable housing units.

An estimated 7.2 million new affordable housing units are needed to meet the unmet demand for housing. Might underutilized government offices, empty parking lots, shuttered public schools, vacant shopping malls open the way to relieving our chronic housing shortage of affordable housing and senior care facilities?

Other uses of dead space can include:

  • People working from home offices from time to time need places where they can hold meetings, take advantage of business services, and make some human connections. Some creative businesses need to test their ideas while they are still in development. Conference rooms can be used for impromptu focus groups.
  • Homeless shelters that can prepare meals and provide beds.
  • Round-the-clock daycare centers can enable parents who work all shifts to have a safe place for their kids lessening the burden on family members   to watch their kids.

Unused Land

The loss of crops due to environmental damage can be offset by growing food in cities. Fifteen percent of a city’s land has been found to be vacant. This includes undisturbed open space to abandoned, contaminated brownfields. Contaminated land can be reclaimed and returned to productive use.

Empty high-rise buildings can be used to grow vegetables hydroponically, using LED light and robots.  The process involves growing plants in nutrient solutions that are essentially free of soil, as roots are submerged into the solution. The plants are regularly monitored to maintain the correct levels of chemical composition.

It’s estimated that one acre of vertical farming offers the equivalent production of at least four to six acres using conventional outdoor methods. As the plant’s growth is not dependent on sunlight or affected by weather conditions, like drought, storms, and growing seasons, growing lots of  vegetables, herbs, and some fruits like strawberries. Plants grown indoors require as much as 70 percent less water than traditional farms. As much as 70% of the world’s water is used for agriculture. This is an easy way to save precious water for homes and businesses.  Lettuce grows particularly well and vertical farms can even yield twenty times more lettuce than agricultural fields. Pesticides generally aren’t needed and there’s no soil depletion or harmful runoffs.

The closeness of vertical farms means produce can be delivered quickly to consumers, whether they are consumers or institutions like colleges. Urban  Agriculture has been, recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture by opening an  Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production.

Vertical farming ideally begins a virtuous cycle of natural diversification, with best-practice concepts capable of being expanded to help communities most at-risk of climate change danger.  Indoor agriculture generally means consistent light, temperatures, nutrients, and moisture for crops no longer held hostage by nature’s cycles of drought, storms, and seasons.

Hydroponic systems are being developed enabling you can grow up to 120 plants in a space the size of a cupboard. The design is fully modular and can be built using standard parts purchased from the local hardware store. Growers adapt the plans to suit the type of food they want to grow. The open-source project also allows people to share their adaptations and improvements to the design with others, creating a collaborative process.

There is growing popularity in the number and type of hydroponic systems. These include an underground farm designed for abandoned urban areas and a countertop garden.

The world’s largest indoor vertical farm will launch in 2023. The new vertical farm will provide locally-sourced microgreens and sustainably-raised hybrid striped bass to consumers throughout Northeast America. The new facility, located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania will be 250,000 square feet. By early 2023 it plans to be providing fresh, locally-sourced microgreens and sustainably-raised hybrid striped bass to consumers throughout the Northeast United States.

The COVID-D pandemic is resulting in changes to the way we live and work.  Some of these changes will be an acceleration of trends already underway that are resulting in a more empty office and industrial space. Some adaptations will make life better for many people, but for people whose lives and livelihoods are harmed, repurposing buildings and land can help them transition to the rest of the 21st century. Covid-19 often attacks the heart,  both literally and figuratively. In the deserted downtowns, it feels as though you’d stumbled upon the cemetery where nondescript office towers go to die. In many residential suburbs, things look almost normal.

“Build Back Better” should mean accounting for all Americans and that “bounce back” from the pandemic crisis will look different than they did pre-pandemic — particularly their downtowns.

Here’s an example of what can be done – a former white supremacist store and Klan meeting space has been turned into a community center to promote racial reconciliation changing the mission to a building that had been dedicated to glorifying white supremacy known as the Redneck Shop. The story of this transformation was made into the 2018 film ‘Burden’.

 

How the Trump Administration is Mishandling the Coronavirus

Inevitably, the truth has a way of butting up against lies and liars. Now the time has come for Donald Trump to experience the consequences of his current round of untruths about the coronavirus, also called the Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2.

On February 28, At a South Carolina rally last week, President Trump claimed that COVID-19 was a “hoax” being perpetrated by the Democratic Party.  Trump encourages Sean Hannity to downplay COVID-19 as ‘corona flu’ and call the death rate ‘fake numbers.’  Donald Trump, Jr. said on Fox News that Democrats hope millions of people would die. He continues to minimize the threat posed by the coronavirus, telling people to go to work as unusual and is fearful about spooking the stock market. This is the same Trump who says climate change is a hoax and windmills cause cancer, and declared coronavirus to be very seasonal. “Is this just like flu?” Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways, it’s easier and in some ways, it’s a little bit tougher. But we have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.”

This novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, is spreading from person to person in parts of the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high. There are now over 500 cases in about 40 states and 17 deaths.

Evidence points to this becoming a full-blown pandemic, which is a worldwide spread of a new disease.   The sense of crisis deepened in the United States with cases reported coast to coast.  Worldwide, cases are over 100,000 and the global death toll is near or past 3,000 now. . Covid-19 has killed patients on all continents except Antarctica.  People feel uneasy or unsure about the implications of COVID-19.

This virus spreads twice as fast as other viruses.  4 out of 5 people are susceptible to contracting this virus which is highly communicable. People are more likely to get it by touching surfaces and then touching their face than they are to breathe in droplets directly from someone who is infected.

Patients with COVID-19 have mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms that can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. As many a hundred million Americans may get coronavirus.

If this coronavirus strain is as communicable as regular flu—meaning 40.25 million will get it—a two percent mortality rate would imply that 805,000 Americans could die from the virus. By these measures, a global coronavirus pandemic could infect 861 million people worldwide with an expected 17.2 million deaths.

On February 29, Trump announced the first death in the United States, yet continues to blame the new media and Democrats for exaggerating the dangers of the coronavirus. He continues to downplay the threat, of ignoring the spread around the world, and of demonstrating that his concerns are about the stock market. Trump delayed people from leaving their cruise ship because he said he wanted to keep the number of cases down. This is classic Trump— affixing the blame on others.

Trump put in charge of America’s response Vice President Pence, who bungled the response to an HIV epidemic in rural Indiana when he was its governor.  Pence decides what information by government officials, like Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. and Robert Redfield M.D., Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is given out. Government officials are forbidden to talk without prior authorization.

What happened over the past week illustrates how poor planning by federal health officials results in a rumor mill fueled by social media, polarized politics and a lack of clear communication undermine public confidence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has withheld “crucial” information about the coronavirus from doctors, medical experts warn and doctors and other health officials are reporting information is being withheld.  The CDC has only shared detailed clinical information about one of those patients, according to CNN. The agency has information about other coronavirus patients, which has not yet been released. The CDC did not have enough test kits and contracted with Integrated DNA Technologies, a commercial test manufacturer working with the CDC. The administration said 4 million more tests will be shipped in the next several days by March 15. Americans are not happy with the handling of COVID-19, but it’s not too late to make critical changes.

Economically

Nations are tightening travel restrictions, canceling public events and urging people to take health precautions.  Companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are telling workers to stay at home. On TV, we see scenes from the US and abroad showing arenas and buildings virtually empty.  Schools are being closed and sporting events, canceled. Where they are not closed, parents are circulating an online petitions calling for schools to be closed.

Meanwhile, the economic news indicates investors and corporations fear the worst. Supply chains are being disrupted, and not just for. This is the main reason world stock markets have crashed in the last few weeks, reflecting trillions of dollars of losses. Gold, history’s safest haven for worried investors cannot escape coronavirus, has fallen. There is also a looming threat to retail across the board, analysts said. This undercuts Trump’s argument that this is the best economy ever.

World oil prices fell 15 percent.  In response, oil-producing nations are cutting back production. Global manufacturing supply chains for cars, smartphones,  medical equipment,  pharmaceuticals,  electronics, chemicals, food, tobacco, beverages and so on will be damaged for several months at least, All sorts of things from cars to toys producing bottlenecks.

The net effect of this to contract the economies of the world.  The stock market is gyrating. Airlines are burning thousands of gallons of fuel flying empty ‘ghost’ planes so they can keep their flight slots. Meanwhile, airline stocks have crashed.

Half of our imports from China—and an appreciable share from Korea and Japan—are inputs used by U.S. manufacturers to produce their goods. If the pandemic slows the production and exports of those inputs, as is now happening, American manufacturing will slow further and more U.S. unemployment will ensue. The United States is also a very important export market for many countries. As the pandemic spreads widely, all of these troubling effects will increase sharply.

Many industries are being decimated, including transportation, food and beverage services, entertainment such as movies, tourist attractions, adventure tourism, recreation and ecotourism, hotels and travel services. Dozens of trade shows and huge annual corporate events in and outside the United States have been canceled. Among those called off because of the virus are Houston-based CERAWeek, one of the biggest energy events of the year, and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

American consumers are displaying a symptom of the illness seen in Asia and Europe — hoarding.  People are emptying store shelves of facemasks and hand sanitizers. San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, has declared a state of emergency. There is unquestionably a growing sense of urgency for people to stock up on staples and to prepare for lengthy home quarantines. A man who worked in Hong Kong and China during the SARS outbreak and knows first-hand the stresses that snowballing fears of a pandemic can cause. We believe the time to start worrying about the supply chain risk of 2019-nCoV is here.  It’s worth noting that big-box players like Target and Walmart could be the first to experience out of stock issues.”

People already were unnerved by strange stories posted on Facebook and shared via text messages about helicopters secretly flying in sick patients, that the virus was grown in a Chinese lab, that someone — either the media or the government — was lying to them about what was really going on.

When people become apprehensive about their own survival and that of their families, we engage in survival behavior. There has been panic-purchasing of masks and other personal protective gear. Several major retailers, including Walmart and Target, stand to see supply chains badly hit by the coronavirus and that could result in some empty store shelves starting in April, Ed Kelly, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in a research note this month

 Stockpiling in states like Hawaii and Minnesota was spurred by messages from state health departments urging residents to buy supplies of non-perishable foods, prescription medications, and sanitary supplies. Irrational stockpiling can also lead to price gouging, can lead to anxiety.

The advice contradicted the message from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose Director Robert Redfield on Thursday told a US congressional hearing that there was no need for healthy Americans to stock up on any supplies.  People are confused when hearing contradictory information and when it comes from authoritative sources, it makes what they say less believable. These words from a political appointee sound like a political message, not one that prepares people for the possibility this could become a pandemic.

Words will not alleviate grief when a grandmother or a friend perishes from this disease. The first American death occurred in Kirkland, Washington. Others in this city are being quarantined and isolated.

There are 65 known cases in the U.S. and the first case of one that “community transmitted” has occurred. People around the world are getting sick and some people are dying. Italy has over 1,100 cases, Japan, 900+, Iran, 500+, and in China over 79,200. It’s been found in nearly 60 countries. Italy shut down all schools and has essentially closed down a quarter of its population, including Milan.

Travel restrictions are in effect for Italy, South Korea, and China,  and the U.S. has suspended the entry of foreign nationals coming from locations where the virus has been present. The University of Connecticut, among other universities, has canceled a study abroad program with Italy and is bringing students home.

Both the death rate and the spread of the infection are escalating comparing to the swine flu epidemic and before that the Spanish flu of 1918.  The Spanish flu killed around 670,000 Americans at a time when the U.S. population was 103 million —and historians say that its spread was made worse by President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to pretend everything was just fine.

The coronavirus spread further globally on Friday. The latest World Health Organization figures indicate more than 100,000 people have been infected, with over 3,000 deaths. The number of cases doubles each week. It spreads at twice the speed of other viruses.

How dangerous is the coronavirus? The seasonal flu kills about 0.1 percent of people who become infected. The 1918 Spanish flu had a high fatality rate of around two percent, and tens of millions of people died around the world.  A similar 2% death rate is being reported from Wuhan, China where the disease originated. Another report from many parts of China shows a lower death rate: 1.4 percent. It’s too early to know how extensive or fatal the coronavirus will be. The death rate from the coronavirus is twenty times as ordinary flu.

As a whole, the United States appears unprepared for this possible pandemic. Trump has criminally underplayed the importance of emergency preparations of all kinds. Trump fired the entire staff of the National Security Council that monitored pandemics. Trump has proposed a funding cutback funding cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although this budget has not been enacted  — apparently because of his lifelong hatred of having people around who know that what he is doing is foolish.

Meanwhile, the CDC is doing the best it can, sending its doctors and experts to places around the country. However, the United States is unprepared. People severely stricken with coronavirus need breathing machines. The United States currently has about 100,000 of these, two-thirds of which are always in use. The demand for these, if hundreds of thousands of Americans are severely sickened, would create a need for another 150,000 of breathing machines, tubes, and testing kits.

To keep up with the news about the coronavirus, check the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.