Late last night veteran #climate journalist @Revkin asked some sharp questions about @Sierra_Magazine’s “The Case for Climate Reparations,” spurred by an appreciative post from NYC Chief Resilience Officer @dzarrilli. Here’s my response …
My essay is only concerned with climate change-related damages in the US spurred, as I argue, by US actors like the oil majors. I could’ve written about Peruvian villagers suing a German energy giant & melting glaciers in the Andes, but that’s beyond the scope of my article.
So I had to identify extreme weather events in the US. As NOAA has reported, 2017 was the most destructive year on record for “natural” disasters. See this tracker ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/summa…
As you know, attribution science has made significant leaps in recent years. To take just one example, see here
ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/…
How, then, to make the connection between #climatechange and 1) the Nor Cal Fires and 2) the powerful hurricanes in 2017?
Fires first. USGS researcher Jon Keeley makes offers some important clarifications and caveats in his post: Yes, the 2017 fires caused unprecedented destruction simply because there are more homes to destroy, in comparison to the 1964 Hanley fire.
Sprawl makes us more vulnerable to fires. No debate there. The question then becomes: how/whether climate change intensified the Nor Cal fires of 2017?
Keeley mentions 1991 E Bay fires as a historical comparison of a fire fueled by Diablo winds. But during the ‘91 fires, winds were clocked at abt 60 MPH. During the Napa 2017 fires, winds clocked at 79 MPH. That 30% difference makes the 2017 fires more anomalous than analogous
In the months before the fires, Nor Cal experienced the warmest summer in "more than 100 years," according to @Weather_West scientificamerican.com/article/scient…
The larger trends are clear: “Observed warming and drying have significantly increased fire-season fuel aridity, fostering a more favorable fire environment across forested systems.” See pnas.org/content/113/42…
Also, this: “Wildfires across western North America have increased in number and size over the past three decades, and this trend will continue in response to further warming.” pnas.org/content/114/18…
Coastal CA isn’t immune to these trends. As fire ecologist  John Abatzoglou 
told NPR: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that forests burn when it's warm and dry, and we've seen more of those years recently.” npr.org/sections/thetw…
Next, Hurricanes. THX for sharing yr 2007 article on the subject, but attribution science has made gains since then. And while there is still uncertainty, I think it’s fair to say that research linking higher ocean water temps w/ increased storm intensity is pretty solid.
We have very good reason to believe that we seeing an intensification in Atlantic hurricanes. See this widely cited paper from Kossin et al
myweb.fsu.edu/jelsner/PDF/Re… and this older one agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.102…
And there is growing consensus that hurricanes will only grow more intense as ocean waters continue to warm. See
pnas.org/content/109/48… and also here
nature.com/articles/ngeo7…
While it’s always difficult to separate the signal from the noise, Hurricane Maria appears to fit the pattern. It was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years.
I noticed, Andy, that you didn’t quibble w/ my inclusion of Hurricane Harvey—probably because it was so obviously abnormal. But to my mind at least, the Saldivar family tragedy is probably the weakest link in my case.
Let’s agree Harvey was intensified by humans. That doesn’t mean, tho, that the carbon barons are necessarily responsible for the Saldivar tragedy, which likely involved any number of poor decisions. And still: The Saldivars were put in jeopardy by the freakish storm.
Which is exactly why we need some kind of hybrid of the 9/11 victims fund, BP fund, and Superfund programs (just spit-balling here) so we have a mechanism to pay for individual & community compensation and recovery from extreme weather disasters.
My argument is that were such a fund to be established, it shouldn’t just be taxpayers who support it—but also those who have profited handsomely from selling fossil fuels.
I hope all of that is a satisfactory response to your question. I have one for you, @Revkin: Do you believe that the carbon barons have ZERO responsibility for fueling global climate change and associated extreme weather disasters?

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