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Deadly Irene Politics: Climate Change and Prisoners Abandoned to Die

Bloomberg has left the prisoners behind to die at New York's Rikers Island.

Obama has left the people of the world to suffer climate change.

We must fight!
Rikers Island
Rikers Island
Deadly Irene Politics: Climate Change and Prisoners Abandoned to Die

by Steven Argue

Bloomberg Leaves Prisoners to Die

Hurricane Irene is headed towards the east coast of the United States with the potential to impact 55 million people. It is a category one hurricane with 100 mile-per-hour winds and is 600 miles wide. As bad as the winds and rains will be the biggest killer in hurricanes is often the storm surge that pushes ocean waters up onto land.

Lower areas of New York are prone to flooding due to storm surge. New York Mayor Bloomberg has called a mandatory evacuation of areas most prone to flooding, forcing 270,000 people to move. Yet, Bloomberg has left the prisoners behind to die at New York's Rikers Island. The jail is built on landfill on a low lying island prone to flooding. Under the plans of the city, however, there is no plan for evacuation in any sized hurricane. The facility usually holds about 12,000 people captive, including juveniles, the mentally ill, and pre-trial detainees. These people, many not convicted of a crime, may well have been sentenced to death by Bloomberg. Likewise, the jail contains people convicted in America's unfair criminal injustice system where people who are poor, of color, or leftists never get a fair shake. Those convictions could now carry a death sentence under Bloomberg.

History repeats itself. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 floodwaters filled buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison compound. Guards abandoned the death trap. Prisoners, still locked-up, swam around for days in cells without food in their own excrement and a number of prisoners reported seeing other prisoners dead. Human Rights Watch reported 517 prisoners unaccounted for and when they demanded accounting of the missing, were told by Parish Sheriff Marlin N. Gussman the obvious provable lie "nobody drowned, nobody was left behind.". Several officers, however, reported to Human Rights Watch that there was no evacuation. One of these was Officer Perry, an officer for 30 years, who reported that they did indeed leave the prisoners behind saying, "Ain't no tellin' what happened to those people."

Like the prisoners at Rikers Island, many of the New Orleans prisoners were waiting for trial and the crimes they were accused of included public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Their deaths and other mistreatment were a crime.

Mayor Bloomberg, already hated for things like his attacks on the teachers union and the corporatization of public schools, is a lifelong Democrat and the 13th richest person in the United States. Bloomberg is now currently guilty of reckless endangerment of 12,000 prisoners and, if any of them die, he has blood on his hands. As usual, the poor and working class are not represented by the rule of the Democrats and Republicans.

Climate Change is Increasing the Number and Intensity of Hurricanes

Yesterday I pointed out that climate change is increasing the number and intensity of hurricanes. A climate change denialist reacted angrily claiming that the number of hurricanes has actually decreased in the last decade. So, since such records are kept, I simply did the calculations. The last decade had on average more hurricanes per year than any other decade on record. So, he was 100% wrong. I also calculated the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic between 1995 and 2010 and there was an average of 7.94 hurricanes per year while between 1965 and 1994 there was an average of 5.35 hurricanes per year. That's an increase by 2.59 hurricanes a year or about 26 hurricanes per decade. (I started with 1965 because that was the first year when scientists agree that reliable statistics were taken.)

Besides increasing the likelihood of being hit by a hurricane, climate change also increases the dangers of storm surges by causing higher ocean levels. Oceans have risen by more than one inch in the last decade. Rising seas are caused both by an increase in the amount of water in the oceans and by the water itself being warmer. There is more water in the oceans due to the increased melting of glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland, and the mountains of the world. In addition, the oceans have become warmer and warmer water expands, taking up more space, causing sea levels to rise further. Higher seas mean higher storm swells. These storm swells could be particularly bad in areas where land masses help funnel the water upwards towards heavily populated areas like many of the lower areas of New York City.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists point out on their website:

"The world's oceans have absorbed about 20 times as much heat as the atmosphere over the past half-century, leading to higher temperatures not only in surface waters (e.g., depths of less than 100 feet) but also down to substantial depths, with the most severe warming occurring in the first 1,500 feet below the surface. As this warming occurs, the oceans expand and raise sea level. This expansion, combined with the inflow of water from melting land ice, has raised global sea level more than one inch over the last decade. In addition, observations of atmospheric humidity over the oceans show that water vapor content has increased four percent since 1970; because warm air holds more water vapor than cold air, these findings correlate with an increase in air temperature."

That increased amount of water vapor and those increased temperatures also contribute to increasing the North Atlantic's number hurricanes as well as their intensity. This happens because increased atmospheric and sea surface temperatures add to the energy that creates and maintains hurricanes.

On this question NOAA wrote in their 2007 report "Synthesis and Assessment Report 3.3: Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate" that:

"Atlantic tropical cyclone (hurricane) activity, as measured by both frequency and the Power Dissipation Index (which combines storm intensity, duration, and frequency) has increased. The increases are substantial since about 1970, and are likely substantial since the 1950s and 60s, in association with warming Atlantic sea surface temperatures. There is less confidence in data prior to about 1950."

"There have been fluctuations in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes from decade to decade, and data uncertainty is larger in the early part of the record compared to the satellite era beginning in 1965. Even taking these factors into account, it is likely that the annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes in the North Atlantic have increased over the past 100 years, a time in which Atlantic sea surface temperatures also increased."

Both the mechanism and the data are clear in pointing to climate change causing more problems with hurricanes.

Another prediction with a warmer Atlantic is a change in weather patterns that will turn the Amazon forest into a desert and dry up the Amazon River. In 2005 the Amazon River basin faced a drought never seen in recorded history. For the first time in recorded history a stretch of the Amazon River went completely dry in 2005, with causes attributed to a combination of less rainfall, smaller glaciers in the Andes (as a result of melting), and deforestation. Computer models predict that the rains that are necessary for the continued flow of the Amazon River will dry up due to the warmth of the Atlantic Ocean, causing moisture to fall directly as rain into the Atlantic rather than being blown inland. In addition to these projections saying that the Amazon River will dry up as a result of global warming, they also say that the Amazon rainforest will begin a regression first to grassland ending with the massive desertification of the Amazon Basin within the next one-hundred years. This, and other processes of desertification around the world, will, like rising oceans, cause starvation, massive refugee crisis's, and also cause mass extinction of plant and animal species. Presently, the trees of the Amazon Forest remove greenhouse carbon from the atmosphere, but as climate changes and the forest disappears, this process will reverse itself, and the region will be adding carbon to the atmosphere.

The problem of global warming is one that will, and is, devastating the planet's environment, causing mass extinction of species while also destroying agricultural and habitable land through rising oceans, more severe hurricanes, droughts, more unpredictable weather, increases in tropical diseases, the slowing of ocean currents causing year round freezing weather with a potential ice age in the northern hemisphere combined with higher temperatures closer to the equator, and the potential of runaway global warming with the melting of the ocean's methane hydride that could actually cause anoxic oceans and hydrogen sulfide clouds that cause extinction of the human species as well as most other species on the planet. Such a mass extinction occurred 250 million years ago due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at that time due to massive volcanic activity.

Today, instead of volcanoes, it is humans who are rapidly adding massive amounts of additional carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Today, every national academy of science of the industrialized world recognizes human caused global warming as a fact. These include the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences who explicitly use the word "consensus" on the issue.

Yet there are a few voices who claim that human caused global warming is a myth. Among these is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a foundation funded by ExxonMobile. Under pressure, ExxonMobile declared they would no longer fund such groups. Yet, a study of ExxonMobiles tax returns showed they were lying and that they were still funding 14 other similar groups. Among these is the organization "Frontiers for Freedom" who recently issued a report that was dedicated to attacking Al Gore and global warming science.

Likewise, Republican front runner Rick Perry serves the oil capitalists who back him well by claiming that climate change is a myth.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, also with a history of money from big oil money backing him, recognizes the reality of climate change, but has done nothing about it. Democrats want to let Obama off the hook now because the Congress is controlled by Republicans, but the Democrats had control of the House and Senate for two years and Obama did nothing positive on climate change. Obama talked of the EPA regulating greenhouse gasses, but dropped it before lifting a finger to enact anything in the real world.

Today we live in a society where one of the ruling parties of the rich that gets big campaign contributions from the coal and oil industries, the Republicans, lies to the American people by dismissing all scientific evidence and claiming there is no such thing as human caused climate change. Meanwhile, the other ruling party of the rich that gets big campaign contributions from the coal and oil industries, the Democrats, lies to the American people by saying they will do something about climate change. One may prefer one lie over the other, but in the end the world is heating up, humanity and biodiversity is in big trouble, and nothing of substance is being done.

The United States is still the biggest contributor to global warming in the world. Per capita, China has much lower carbon emissions than the United States. Likewise, historically their output is also much less than the United States. No country outdoes the extreme per-capita output of US capitalism, nor do they outdo the historic US output, output which stays in the atmosphere for a long time and continues to contribute to global warming today. There is no question that other countries must do more on climate change, but we in the United States must stop pointing fingers at others and act immediately to change the habits of the number one climate polluter in the world, the United States.

The United States needs an emergency program to dramatically lower carbon emissions. Without it we are doomed. Yet both ruling capitalist parties in the United States have been in the back pockets of big oil and coal, and have refused to do anything. A mass movement is needed to demand changes including the development of alternatives to fossil fuels, the sale of cleaner more efficient technologies like the electric car, a massive jobs program to build a greener economy, opposition to dirty oil and coal developments like offshore drilling, mountain top removal, and the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, and for the nationalization of the energy industries so that they can be run for the common good and the corrupting influence of their money is eliminated from politics. Some of this is already happening, but we need to turn it up several notches while dropping illusions in the Democrat Party.


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