Hurricane Bullshit

Sometimes Reason contributor, overzealous Dow predictor, and former New Orleans resident James Glassman has a searing piece up over at Tech Central Station. His topic? How various environmentalists, ranging from Robert Kennedy Jr. to Ross Gelbspan to Jurgen Tritter have all blamed Hurrican Katrina on global warming and a failure to adopt the Kyoto Protocol.

That's crap, sez Glassman, who points out:

There is no evidence that hurricanes are intensifying.... For the North Atlantic as a whole, according to the United Nations Environment Programme of the World Meteorological Organization: "Reliable data...since the 1940s indicate that the peak strength of the strongest hurricanes has not changed, and the mean maximum intensity of all hurricanes has decreased."

Yes, decreased.

Not only has the intensity of hurricanes fallen, but, as George H. Taylor, the state climatologist of Oregon has pointed out, so has the frequency of hailstorms in the U.S. (see Changnon and Changnon) and cyclones throughout the world (Gulev, et al.).

But environmental extremists do not want to be bothered with the facts. Nor do they wish to mourn the destruction and death wreaked on a glorious city. To their everlasting shame, they would rather distort and exploit.

Whole thing here.

Reason checked the barometer on hurricanoes and global warming a while back. The forecast: nothing to worry about.

Back in 1993, when Hurricane Andrew was still the big storm everyone was yapping about, Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin drew a devestating portrait of how pols screwed up the recovery while lining their own pockets. Check it out here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Baylen||

    Less intense hurricanes? Fewer hailstorms and cyclones? Must be due to global warming! (Which is itself caused by the pronounced decline in the number of pirates over the last few centuries.)

  • ||

    But RFK Jr. is more famous than us, which obviously means he is so much smarter. We must listen and heed his wisdom.

  • ||

    Wow, a visit to Drudge and he managed to slap that together in 2-3 few hours. Proving once again how little time it takes to shoot fish in a barrel.

  • ||

    Reminds me of what I'm reading Dubya is saying NOW about his war: It's for the oil!
    As if we didn't know it all along!
    Now Dubya figures to shift the blame for gasoline prices back to Osama?

  • ||

    Classic bait and switch. Get Fox News and right wing talk radio to whip up a fury about what a liberal crackpot says to misdirect the focus from where it should be. The real story is how the funding to restore the levees was cut while a bridge to nowhere in Alaska was funded and billions of money was given to KBR in Iraq:

    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001051313

  • Scott Ferguson||

    "Bait and switch," you say? Please.

    If the left doesn't want to be ridiculed, it should stop saying stupid things.

  • ||

    Actually, it think that butterfly I saw last week is responsible.

    Bastard--I knew I should have swatted it.

  • MP||

    Actually, it think that butterfly I saw last week is responsible.

    A Sound of Thunder

  • ||

    Whatever about those knuckleheads, I feel sorry for the folks in N.O. The pictures on CNN are unbelievable!

  • ||

    The real story is that New Orleans and State of Louisiana have the most incompetent and corrupt government this side of Mugabi's Zimbabwe. Since the New Orleans city government is almost exclusively, black, Democratic, and liberal, I am wondering what the odds are that the mainstream media will hold them accountable for anything. Naw. It�s much easier to blame Bush for everything.

  • ||

    I've got 36,000 reasons not to give a shit about whatever James Glassman is yammering about now.

  • Baylen||

    Very sad live coverage on N.O. television here: http://www.wwltv.com/perl/common/video/wmPlayer.pl?title=beloint_khou&props=livenoad

  • ||

    Since the New Orleans city government is almost exclusively, black, Democratic, and liberal, I am wondering what the odds are that the mainstream media will hold them accountable for anything.

    Damn them liberal darkies for taking the payoff from Katrina and looking the other way! How could they!?! John, I think you can win a pulitzer for your investigative journalism.

  • ||

    When the leftists start yapping about how the levees should have been strengthened and all of that, you should consider one thing; when the core of engineers does go to do things like improving levees who do you think shows up to stop it? Every left environmental group you can imagine thats who. I doubt anyone on the left had much a problem with the Corps not building another levy.

  • ||

    The real story is how the funding to restore the levees was cut while a bridge to nowhere in Alaska was funded and billions of money was given to KBR in Iraq:

    Would anyone care to explain why I should have to pay for levees in New Orleans, rather than, say, the residents of New Orleans, and perhaps Louisiana?

    And do so in a way that enunciates some limiting principle that doesn't make every damn thing in the country a proper subject for federal funding?

    Just because I am paying for a bridge in Alaska that I shouldn't have to, doesn't mean I should also pay for a levee in Louisiana so developers can build hotels BELOW SEA LEVEL for cripes sake. I mean, did they really think that buildings below sea level weren't going to get flooded?

    Actually, they probably knew it would happen, but knew they could count on Uncle Sugar to bail them out.

  • ||

    Joe,

    I guess you can not care about what the NYT says too. From yesterday's edition

    Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

    But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught "is very much natural," said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.

    From 1970 to 1994, the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. Cooler water in the North Atlantic strengthened wind shear, which tends to tear storms apart before they turn into hurricanes.

    In 1995, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950's and 60's. From 1995 to 2003, 32 major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, stormed across the Atlantic. It was chance, Dr. Gray said, that only three of them struck the United States at full strength.



    I guess you can put them as a part of the Oil funded NEOCON conspiracy. You discredit your own side by making rediculous arguments.

  • ||

    I thought joe was saying that he cared more about the affected people than cynical partisan jabs about the disaster.

  • ||

    Eric the 5b,

    Perhaps I am wrong and Joe wasn't trying to claim global warming is to blame for Katrina. If so, I apologize Joe.

  • ||

    A few lessons to be taken from Katrina:

    1) New Orleans is a preview of a domestic WMD attack. Sooner or later, one will happen. If disease flares up in New Orleans, then it might as well BE a WMD attack. Study and learn, people.

    Does the devastation of New Orleans cause a recession? Why or why not?

    How does this affect shipping? We are coming up on harvest; can people in the Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio valleys get their crops to international markets?

    How will oil be affected? How fast is the Strategic Reserve drawn down? When the Gulf oil platforms come on line, will there be any facilities to deliver their output to?

    Where will hundreds of thousands (millions?) of refuges live and work for the next 6 months or more? When rebuilding starts, what happens to the prices of construction materials? Will logging restrictions in federal forests be eased to provide timber? Will rebuilding trigger inflation?

    Fishing. Whole fleets are gone. The port facilities destroyed. How long does it take to return to previous levels of production? Is this a good time to institute property rights on fishing zones (or some other system that doesn't involve overfishing the commons)?

    Will the Saints and Hornets play this season? Where will they play? At LSU? Who will attend when no one who had tickets has a job, even if they are still in the area?

    There are dozens of other questions, but the answers we get will tell us how we (as a nation) will cope with a WMD attack.

    ---------

    2) Assume the moderate-case scenarios concerning global warming are true. Sea-level rises some 6-10 feet. Many cities that are currently at or close to sea-level will be below sea level, the way New Orleans currently is. What do we do?

    Do we build a levy and seawall system? That makes those cities vulnerable to catastrophe, both natural and man-made. Do we abandon the low ground as water rises? Do we build up ground level, so that the former 3rd floor is now ground level? Do they all go the Venice route? Can they go the Venice route, with steel frames in contact with salt water?

    I think New Orleans is an object lesson concerning rising sea levels. We need a lot more science as quickly as possible, to better determine the trajectory of our climate. More data collection, better models. The more certain we are of the climate's trajectory, the better we can decide what to do with the cities that are at risk of becoming New Orleans. If we are lucky, we don't have to do much of anything. If we aren't, there some expensive decisions to be made.

  • ||

    Assume the moderate-case scenarios concerning global warming are true.

    I applaud you for your courage and willingness to buck the crowd on this forum.

    Me, I only argue with the global warming skeptics if there's a specific study in question that I can read and defend on its merits. I don't even bother trying to address the general question on this forum. They've got a million facts at their disposal. Context and logic? Eh...

  • ||

    MP-Simpsons did it!

  • ||

    Actually, I just realized joe was referring to Dow 36,000, not people. I think he's just considering the guy a source not worth listening to, which also has some merit.

  • ||

    It's obviously the federal government's fault because they didn't build the levees even higher. Also, they haven't done anything to stop the coastal erosion caused by making the levees higher.

    I can't wait until we rebuild a bigger and newer New Orleans below sea level.

    IF WE DON'T REBUILD, THE HURRICANES WIN!!!

  • ||

    I wonder did the media only show pictures of black people looting coz they're a bunch of racists, or what?

  • ||

    "We need a lot more science as quickly as possible,"

    Why? To collect dust somewhere in the national archives?

    Good luck using science to convince the anti-science party of anything. They're still debating Darwin. Any consensus on the issues you discuss is completely unrealistic.

  • ||

    RC: You shouldn't have to pay for anything. But if you're going to have a state, keeping communication (which includes transport) open is probably a government task. It becomes a federal task because NOLA is the the transfer point for everything that goes between the Mississippi and Ohio valleys (1/3 of USA) to the outside world.

    You're not looking at John Stossel's house blown away here. Most of greater New Orleans is very poor by USA standards, and they work to get you gas for your car, grain for your bread, and those cheap chinese t-shirts. The gulf coast is industrial far more than recreational.

    The city was settled above sea level, along the natural levee of the river. The low-lying areas were not developed until early 20th-Century, to provide more land for all the workers to live as the port continued to grow. I could tell you more than you want to know about the site and situation of the city, but if prefer your do your own research.

  • ||

    Portlander,

    Its amazing how people can work in the topic of global warming into anything on here. Since the point has been argued to death on here, I will skip your references to it. That said, New Orleans isn't much of a port anymore, the major shipping comes out of Mississippi and Pensicola. NPR had the port director for the largest port in Mississipi on this morning and he seemed pretty optimistic that they would be up and running normally within a few days. I don't think maritime shipping is going to be effected that much. Trucking is got huge problems because the I10 bridge over Lake Ponchetrain has apparently been destroyed. That is a major problem. The fish all up and down the gulf, I can't imagine that there are not going to be boats in Texas and Florda who are not ready and willing to pick up the slack for the lost boats in Mississippi and LA. No one knows about oil yet. The crews are just getting out to take a look, but preliminary indications are that it about like Ivan last year, which was bad, but not catastrophic. The Saints are talking about playing their games in San Antonio. I don't think anyone has thought of the Hornets yet, but I am sure some city in need of an NBA team, Kansas City, OKC? will take them for a while.

  • ||

    Portlander: Fourchon and the LOOP are coming back on line starting tomorrow. The structures built privately (or in partnership), for profit are apparently much more strongly-engineered that some of the purely public projects. The energy will flow, and that'll soften the effect on the rest of the country. Getting the grain out might take longer as the port facilities are basically in the metro area..

  • ||

    Off topic, but what's with all the politicos using references to WWII (Hiroshima, Dresden, et.c) when describing the hurrican devastation? I realize we just had an anniversary relative to Hiroshima but there are plenty of natural disasters that could be alluded to for comparison.

    Maybe it's related to the ad nauseum attempts to compare Iraq to WWII, it's just in the brain!

  • ||

    R C --

    I think Arthur Silbersays it better than I could :
    I don't think the government should be doing about 98% of what it does.

    However.

    If the UNITED STATES government is going to spend AMERICAN TAXPAYER money to save the entire goddamned world, I have a suggestion: instead of using AMERICAN TAXPAYER money to destroy a country that is located halfway around the world and that never threatened us and then using AMERICAN TAXPAYER money to deliver that country to Iran, why not use AMERICAN TAXPAYER money to save AMERICANS here at home?

    You can talk about why the money shouldn't be being spent in the first place until you are blue in the face, but since the money has already been collected and is going to be spent, then I think its very valid to point to ways of spending that money that actually saves lives than starting wars or building alaskan bridges

  • ||

    Dynamist,

    According to the WSJ today, at least with regard to levies that is not true. The levies built by the Corps of Engineers after the 1927 flood on Mississippi, are much stronger than the privately built levies. In fact, nearly all of the levies that failed in the 1993 big flood along the Mississippi were privately built, few Corps built ones failed. Since the Corps prints its own money, they can over engineer things to withstand the truely rare disaster, whereas private entities very well may choose to risk it figuring, they probably won't be there anymore when the once every 500 year flood hits anyway.

    Also, I want it on the record that global warming clearly caused the 1927 and 1993 floods since the "scientific consensus" is that its responsible for everything from blizards to Noah's flood.

  • ||

    John: You should visit the new Napoleon Ave facilities if you think NOLA is not a big port anymore. From Wikipedia, "The Port of New Orleans handles about 145 million short tons (132 million tonnes) of cargo a year and is the largest faction of the Port of South Louisiana, the latter being the largest and busiest shipping port in the western hemisphere and the 4th busiest in the world."

    The local coverage suggests that Gulfport will be essentially closed for a year. It's good news if you're a Houston booster.

  • ||

    I guess you can not care about what the NYT says too

    That article seems to dispute Glassman. He says the intensity of hurricanes has decreased. The NYT article (and others I've read about the topic) say that frequency and intensity are increasing, but that it's part of a natural cycle unrelated to global warming.

  • ||

    John

    I am not taking a left or right position on the issues you are mentioning but I do feel that most of the blame should be put onto the founders of New Orleans and the ACE. The city was founded in a bad spot to begin with and the ACE gave it a false sense of security with the levees and river diversion. As RC Dean put it, the city lies below sea level, who wouldn't have seen this coming? Its been predicted for decades now.

    I am a hydrologist by profession and I (as well as a some of my peers) scoff at the idea that man can control nature. We can't, we can only hope to contain it long enough to get out. Building homes next to levees is as foolish as it gets and building below sea level next to the sea is asking for serious trouble, regardless of global warming or even an ice age.

    When the leftists start yapping about how the levees should have been strengthened and all of that, you should consider one thing; when the core of engineers does go to do things like improving levees who do you think shows up to stop it? Every left environmental group you can imagine thats who. I doubt anyone on the left had much a problem with the Corps not building another levy.

    One thing you are failing to point out is the discussion of the loss of wetlands south of NO that would have better protected the city from the oncoming storm surge. The controls put onto the river has reduced the sediment load heading into the wetlands to help maintain them. I think its unkind on your part to blame lefty enviro groups who oppose levee improvements when they are trying to bring attention to the fact that these levees reduce the wetlands ability to also protect NO. However, I am personnaly open to whether a full and healthy wetlands would have still prevented the storm surge from doing the damage it did and whether or not a super levee of sorts would have not failed. After all, Katrina was the worst case scenario everyone dreaded.

  • ||

    The only effect of climate change that probably has effect is in an increase in surface sea temps. The Gulf of Mexico is a few degrees warmer than normal this summer and that probably had some effect on the storm, but there is some debate about the precise relationship.

    New Orleans did not suffer total devastation from the high winds or even the direct storm surge but from a levee breach.

  • ||

    John: I don't mean to fault the Corps. They do great work. I wanted to highlight how money effects the quality of building. The offshore facilities are miracles of engineering.

    Also note that the river levees are stronger and higher than the lake levees. The river floods every year, so the politicians are more responsive to that threat.

  • M1EK||

    It is unlikely that you will ever be able to point to a particular storm and say that ANY aspect of it had ANYTHING to do with global climate.

    That being said, I read JFK jr's article, and most of it focused on "this is what we'll see more of in the future", and not so much on "climate change is why this one happened the way it did".

    Anti-statist ideologues here will take the first paragraph above and leap straight to "there's no way we can say that warming will lead to more or stronger hurricanes" which it does not, in fact, actually imply. Current thought is that hurricanes may not be more frequent but quite likely will be stronger.

  • The Lonewacko Blog||

    The real story is how the funding to restore the levees was cut while a bridge to nowhere in Alaska was funded and billions of money was given to KBR in Iraq:

    Apparently there were four pumping stations, only one of which had backup diesel generators. The other three were operating off the main power grid, which, of course, went down. Is that Bush's fault, or the fault of the locals?

    There were other things that the locals didn't do because of "various factors" which I'm sure we'll learn about later. Or, because of the reason cited above, not.

    Note also that at least two DUmmies are saying that Bush was involved in the levee breaking. No, really.

  • ||

    It is my understanding that the site of NO was considered high and dry by the French settlers who founded the city. However the fine alluvial silt that it is on has been settling at something like 3 inches or more a decade. Further the COE did not start any work there til the 1870s. That meant the city went for over 150 years doing its own flood control and engineering.

    Any corrections to the foregoing welcomed.

  • ||

    I will preface this by saying that the people of NOLA have my deepest sympathies and prayers.

    HOWEVER

    The state of Louisiana is not the brightest in the nation. When I was working in DC, almost every time a group from Louisiana went in front of the statue of Huey Long (which LA gave to the capitol building) in the old house chamber, at least one person would pound his/her chest and say, "That's our boy!"

  • ||

    Isaac: The Quarter is a high wide point on the natural levee, and was connected to the lake (and the ocean) by Bayou St. John. The city grew along the levees, forming a crescent. These areas are on fairly solid granular silt. The area drained within the crescent (1900s) is built upon more compressible organic matter, which shrinks when the water is taken out of it. What started at or below sea level got lower when it was drained and built on.

  • ||

    Anyone who claims to know that hurricanes are excacerbated by global warming is full of shit.

    Anyone who claims to know that human pollution and subsequent warming is not contributing to "natural" disasters is equally full of shit.

    How about we just agree do do all we can not to have our taxes go to rebuilding shit below sea level?

  • ||

    Isaac-

    I do concur with your corrections and acknowledge a little oversight on my part if you were correcting my post. As I understand it, the French did settle in a slightly higher than sea level area originally. Only the growth of the city caused it to reclaim areas below sea level. The sinking bit I am less familiar with but it does make sense with the alluvial deposits and the size of the buildings built. But, I still claim the controls put onto the river by ACE gave a false sense of security thus allowing the growth of the city to the proportions we see today. Its simply a bad idea to live next to a levee and below sea level!

  • ||

    I applaud you for your courage and willingness to buck the crowd on this forum.

    Thoreau:
    I'm not sure my what-if counts as bucking the crowd. I'm just pointing out that if such a scenario were true, we now have a real-life example of what New York or Miami or Norfolk can expect. If the folks in those areas are thinking that levies and seawalls are they need to let the good times continue to roll, I hope they are discouraged of that notion.

    Good decisions need good data. I don't think we have that yet. I'm just calling for more data, now that we have a real-life preview of the rising sea level scenario.

    ----
    Good luck using science to convince the anti-science party of anything. They're still debating Darwin. Any consensus on the issues you discuss is completely unrealistic.

    Realist:
    Yeah, you're right about that. Of course, the other guys will likely do the science but then use the results to make the worst possible decisions. They'll consult the Gospel According to FDR and the Gospel According to LBJ and do for dollar what could have been done for a cent.

    We're damned if we don't (Repuglicans) and damned if we do (Demoncrats).

    ----
    John:
    If your analysis is correct, then the economic effects of a WMD attack is greatly overstated. It's conventional wisdom that a WMD attack will cripple the economy and lead to overall chaos. If New Orleans (which is currently simulating a WMD attack) does not lead to economic upheaval, then we have much less to fear from a WMD attack. Not than anyone important will notice that little lesson.


    Lastly, why does God hate America? Was this because Hitman Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez? ;-)

  • ||

    JSM: You do realize that this is not a river flood, right?

    I encourage all to explore the history of the siting of New Orleans. Claiming that "building below sea level is dumb" seems to ignore several centuries of established fact.

    Siting on an unprotected floodplain or barrier islands seems maybe a bit goofy, but the levees are no different in principle than the insulation in northern houses; man takes measures to survive the natural environment. If risk of catastrophe is the measure, I expect all y'all to move to the northern plains. But even there, you'll need a tornado shelter.

  • ||

    Claiming that "building below sea level is dumb" seems to ignore several centuries of established fact.

    It still seems kinda dumb. Maybe not the building, but maintaining. Several centuries of fact make little difference once the hurricane hit, and the levee broke. A tornado on the plains doesn't strike me as an equivalent risk to a city, that's already protecting itself against waters habit of seeking it's own level, facing a huge storm surge.

    Regarding the global warming thing...Monday's Denver Post had a "local angle" article about a CSU Meteorologist who predicts more and worse hurricanes (so far correctly), but doesn't attribute it to global warming. Local warming maybe, but not global.
    http://denverpost.com/business/ci_2984733

  • Godfrey||

    This hurricane is a great opportunity for libertarians to show that charity should come from private parties and not from government. I have donated $200 to the Red Cross to help the people in New Orleans (and other hurricane victims).

    I challenge all you other libertarian types out there to put your money where your mouth is. It's not going to change your lifestyle one bit--but it will change theirs immensely.

    Dig deep, people.

  • ||

    Robert Kennedy Jr. looks like the caricature of a namby pamby, hand wringing, guilt ridden liberal.
    With every breath he looks like he is about to apologize for using oxygen.

  • ||

    Has the president declared a "War on Hurricanes," yet?

  • ||

    Interestingly, global warming models say that the warming would take place mostly in the temperate regions by causing nightime tempertures to be higher. Large storms gain their strength from the temperature differential between the equatorial regions and the temperate regions. The end result is that global warming as hypothesized would likely cause fewer strong storms, not more.

    You heard it here.

  • ||

    I'm surprised that no prominent right-winger, as far as I know, one has taken some time to blame the French. They were the ones who decided to build a city meant to act as the gateway to the largest river system in North America below sea level, and sandwiched between the Mississippi and a large lake.

    Perhaps with stronger levees, this catastrophe could've been avoided. But what if the original doomsday forecast of a 175 mph/902 mb storm hitting the city dead on had held up? It's easy to forget now that this forecast was off the mark, with the storm making landfall as a Cat-4 and having its eye pass about 25 miles to the east of New Orleans, delivering "only" Cat-3 conditions to the city. Had the doomsday forecast proven accurate, stronger levees might've done nothing to stop hell from being delivered by the lake and the river, not to mention much greater wind damage.

    I think the bottom line is that with geography, geology, and Mother Nature being what they are, the city was eventually due for something ugly.

  • ||

    It appears the fundie right is now assessing blame for the hurricane, there was a gay pride parade scheduled next weekend:

    http://www.365gay.com/newscon05/08/083105nola.htm

    http://www.repentamerica.com/pr_hurricanekatrina.html

    The scary thing is that these folks have the President's ear.

  • ||

    Assume the moderate-case scenarios concerning global warming are true. Sea-level rises some 6-10 feet

    Six to ten feet is the moderate-case scenario? The EPA, UN, and Greenpeace are predicting between 9 inches and 3 feet.

  • ||

    JDM

    Sounds like that type of global warming will just move violent weather systems further from the equator, not decrease their intensity. Unless the polar caps completely melt, Warm air masses are still going to encounter a cold area mass at some point, it just might be the 40th parallel instead of the 30th.

  • ||

    Assume the moderate-case scenarios concerning global warming are true. Sea-level rises some 6-10 feet. Many cities that are currently at or close to sea-level will be below sea level, the way New Orleans currently is. What do we do?


    Moderate? Even lefty-greeny type studies say 65cm in the next 100 years!

    6-10 feet?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

  • The Lonewacko Blog||

    The DUmmies apparently forgot to take their meds and have gotten worse:

    We need "one dot connected for MIHOP" New Orleans disaster & impeachment

    MIHOP = "Made it happen on purpose"

  • ||

    deron: What's the difference between maintaining settlement near a faultline, in a fire-prone forest, or in a floodplain? We take measures to mediate the damage everywhere. I don't see why levees are perceived as stupider than putting building on springs, or relying on gas pipelines to keep winter at bay.

    A hurricane, earthquake, or flood all represent natural force on a massive scale, with massive costs. That's why I suggested the plains, where you probably will not freeze to death if the infrastructure collapses, and the sudden damage from tornados is several orders of magnitude smaller.

    There's no other place for New Orleans to be, where the river meets the ocean, just like there's no substitute for San Francisco Bay. I wonder if people recognize that this was a huge storm, and the force of nature is the dominant factor in the damage way more than the site of New Orleans being largely below mean sea level. Mobile and Gulfport are above sea level, but they're largely destroyed, too. It ain't the height of the ground, it was the force in the air that mattered.

    Since the wind didn't scatter NOLA before the flooding, the city is probably at great risk of fire once the water begins going down. If that happens, I'll remind y'all that London and Chicago both burned to the ground, but nobody (O.K. a few do) complains that it is stupid to build stuff out of firewood.

  • Tim Lambert||

    Glassman seems to have carefully ignored the NAture article that Kennedy cited. There is a good discussion here. Bottom line: global warming seems to be increasing the severity of tropical storms, but tnot their frequency.

  • ||

    "With every breath he looks like he is about to apologize for using oxygen."

    Robert Kenedy Jr.?? Hell! He SHOULD apologize just for taking up space on an over-crowded planet!

  • ||

    Eric II: NOLA is pretty much dealing with all the predicted doomsday effects, even though the storm weakened and turned. If the full wind had hit, the differences would have been 1) there would be nobody alive to rescue, and 2) the flooding would have happened during the storm rather than the day after. Even nature had the Orleanian attitude, "Don't worry, cherie, I'll flood ya when I get to it."

    Also note that the Category comparisons are not the best. Look at the storm pressure and speed. Katerina is #3 on record by those more useful indicators.

    Many cities that are currently at or close to sea-level will be below sea level, the way New Orleans currently is. What do we do?

    Learn. Since there seems little we could do to stop the rise (whatever one thinks is the cause), and it isn't possible to move all the affected civilization, build the infrastructure to keep the cities safe as the engineers can envision.

  • ||

    Nothing like a natural disaster to turn every hole in the Albert Hall into an instant expert.

    I have to wonder, if New Orleans didn't exist, would anybody in his right mind think to build a city there?

  • ||

    Douglas: Where else would you put the transfer point between inland, intracoastal, and ocean cargo? Sixty miles upriver in Baton Rouge? On even crappier ground closer to the sea? Dig a canal from Natchez to Houston? Dredge the rivers to 50 feet all the way to Pittsburgh?

    If you don't trust the "experts", you've got some studying to do.

  • ||

    I encourage all to explore the history of the siting of New Orleans. Claiming that "building below sea level is dumb" seems to ignore several centuries of established fact.

    The Dutch have been doing it for hundreds of years with great success, and, yes, an occasional disaster.

  • ||

    Around 1900 at massive hurricane wiped out the city of Galveston, TX. At the time one the largest port cities on the Gulf of Mexico. The result: Houston. If it hadn't been for that hurricane, the gleaming glass skyscapers in downtown Houston would be 40 miles south on Galveston Island.
    I think a similar situation may happen for New Orleans. It's port and commerce will move further inland, and New Orleans will shrink to small, historic getaway for tourists and rest will be reclaimed by the swamps.

  • ||

    The only reason the Mississippi flows where it does is because New Orleans (and Baton Rouge and other places that use the river) is located there.

    Someday, likely relatively soon, the Mississippi is going to jump its banks, overpower the Army Corps, and stop most of its flow to New Orleans.

    New Orleans faces two battles it cannot win. So why should the U.S. government spend billions of dollars to rebuild New Orleans? No private insurer will come back unless there are massive improvements to the city.

  • ||

    Ammonium: If the Corps loses the battle at Old River, it is still probably cheaper to engineer a double outlet than to move all the river-dependent industry elsewhere. One disaster at a time...

    coarsestad: Where further inland? Ocean vessels don't like to go far upriver, and you would have to reconstruct/divert the Intracoastal Waterway to your new port. Again, probably cheaper to rebuild.

    The insured losses may be over $20 billion, but that which was not lost would have to move. How much would it cost to relocate the bulk of the USA petrochemical industry (just to pick one segment)? Gotta be more than $20B, right?

    Syd: Fun historical trivia-- Settling the Zuiderzee and particularly the "new" ground of Flevoland was made possible by the pump technology that was invented to drain New Orleans.

  • ||

    Dynamist
    I suppose the determining factor will be whether a port needs to be rebuilt or repaired. If repaired, then a band-aid will be applied until the next major disaster, if rebuilt... I'd invest someplace else,

  • ||

    coarsestad: If Gulfport really is out for a year, the ocean traffic will likely divert upriver and to Houston and Tampa, both of which are just as vulnerable. Maybe the answer is not so much to invest someplace else but to diversify. Yet, ports are so capital-intensive that they tend to draw concentrations. And anywhere else still lacks the triple waterway access, plus the existing rail, road, power and pipeline access. Even if you have to relay the rails and the pavement, you save the cost of buying right-of-way to the new/expanded port.

  • ||

    Dynamist, if putting the city there was such a bright idea, why in the hell is it under water right now? The fact that New Orleans is the end point of a large shipping system is mostly a historical accident, and I doubt if some bazillionaire shipping magnate today were looking around for a place to establish a major port on the Gulf Coast, he would pick a place that had the vulnerabilities that New Orleans has to this kind of damage.

    Of course I could be wrong about this. I'm not expert, after all.

  • ||

    >How much would it cost to relocate the bulk of the USA petrochemical industry

    The cost would be infinite e.g. it couldn't happen. The environmental lobby is too strong. If no state has approved a new refinery in over 25 years, what makes you think any state would approve a facility like the LOOP? Enviro-conscious, ultra-PC states like California and Oregon wouldn't care about the extra billions of dollars flowing into their economy. They'd rather run huge budget deficits and lose jobs than admit that industry of any kind is necessary and desirable. Florida isn't yet as bad as California in that regard, but it's on its way.

  • ||

    The fact that New Orleans is the end point of a large shipping system is mostly a historical accident

    And I always thought it had something to do with the geographical location...

  • ||

    A million things could have happened to make things different. What if there had been two Katrinas blowing through New Orleans every ten yeras for the past century? You think it would still be a major port if that had happened?

  • ||

    What's the difference between maintaining settlement near a faultline, in a fire-prone forest, or in a floodplain?

    Well, Californians don't expect the federal government to earthquake-proof their houses for them. I don't agree that New Orleans is a "stupid" city, but it is a bit ridiculous that people are complaining that the federal government didn't bend over backwards to make it safer. The city should have paid for that itself (and if it is true that New Orleans is an economically vital city, it should have the money to do that, poor citizenry or no).

    As for how rising sea levels will be dealt with, remember that the rise will happen slowly. In the worst-case scenario (three feet by 2100) the change will be about four inches per decade. That is plenty of time to make appropriate changes to the landscape or for the population to gradually migrate to slightly higher ground.

  • ||

    A million things could have happened to make things different.

    Don't forget that there could have also been yearly swarms of killer bees from South America to eradicate all life in the Crescent City.

    Seriously, hurricanes of Katrina or Camille severity have hit New Orleans so seldom that the economic (and, earlier, military) advantages of the geographical location have been appealing enough to settle there.

    You could play the "what if" game with any major city in the US (or the world, for that matter) - what if earthquakes of 7.9 Richter scale magnitude were to strike San Francisco every ten years for the past century? Of course, no one would live there, but they don't happen that often, do they?

  • ||

    I lived in Houston when Hurricane Carla came through in 1961, and I lived in the vicinity when Allicia hit in 1983. I also remember when Tropical Storm Allison flooded most of downtown Houston several years ago. All three times the place looked like a war zone afterwards.
    Believe me, New Orleans will be rebuilt! If there is ecconomic incentive, it will be. It will not matter how tough the job is or how many times Mother Nature hits it.

  • jadagul||

    To those of y'all wondering why the French were dumb enough to put New Orleans where they did:

    They actually weren't. Originally, they founded a port maybe fifty miles further inland-I don't recall exactly where. But they were at war with the English, and when the English started threatening to sail up the Mississippi and take the French port, they had to build something much closer to the river mouth, where it could also act as a fort to control river access and keep warships from sailing up it.

  • ||

    "Sounds like that type of global warming will just move violent weather systems further from the equator, not decrease their intensity."

    It takes more than temperature differential to cause hurricane-like storms, for instance - lots of moisture. There isn't enough in the temperate zones, and wouldn't be if they were just a few degrees warmer. If the temperature gradiant is flatter between the equator and the temperate regions, there is less potential to generate big storms. You can look it up.

    Sadly, no one saying that gets much attention. There are still people on this thread who think that the seas are going to swallow the Statue of Liberty.

  • ||

    Not trying to preach, but I want to relay some personal experience. I worked for a federal disaster relief agency for a number of years, which eventually was absorbed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the Homeland Security effort.

    Per the government stereotype, we were having a lot of problems with our automated systems and asked the American Red Cross for advice. They invited me and another analyst to visit their headquarters in Washington, DC. During the encounter they were very kind to us, and I found it profound how substantially superior their operation was in every respect.

    The American Red Cross is deserving of every penny they get, and more. There is very little that I am more certain about.

  • ||

    Eric .5b, thank you very much.

    What I was mainly saying was that Steven K. Glassman has proven three things about himself:

    1) He does a poor job of understanding the reasons behind current events.

    2) He does a poor job of making extrapolations from those events into the future.

    3) He can be counted on to mouth whatever line is expedience for the business conservative faction.

    Hence, I'm about as interested in James K. Glassman's analysis of what's going on, than in Paul Ehrlich's.

    As for the legitimacy of the Katrina/Global Warming connection, who knows? Even if Global Warming has increased the number and severity of hurricaines, I can't see how you could point at the "G" or "K" storm in any given season and say, "This is the Global Warming hurricaine" or "This hurricaine would have only been a 2 without global warming."

    Still, hurricaines gain their strength from warm ocean water. Hence, it's probably a good a idea to avoid warming the ocean's water.

  • ||

    John, not much of an NYT reader. Too wedded to the conservative (in the sociological sense, not political) conventional wisdom, too eager to cave to bullying by the powerful.

    Those idiots actually ran story after story proclaiming that Iraq had nuclear weapons. I mean, come on!

  • drf||

    "...who knows? Even if Global Warming has increased the number and severity of hurricaines, ..., "This is the Global Warming hurricaine" or "This hurricaine would have only been a 2 without global warming.""

    and amazingly, Joe, this is exactly what was claimed in Politikken.dk and derstandard.at the other day. sad how left and right yet again, as noticed lots of times by posters here, use this as a proxy to further pet issues.

    happy september, all.
    drf

  • M1EK||

    "Houston and Tampa, both of which are just as vulnerable."

    No, they're not. They're vulnerable to direct hurricane damage as would be ANY coastal city in the area, but not like this. They aren't below sea level; they're not surrounded by a river and a lake; etc.

  • R C Dean||

    What M1EK said. The catastrophe in NO has reached the current scale because NO is below sea level. Right across the river, the flooding is over, the damage is very manageable, etc. NO is a uniquely dangerous place to build a major city. Even the Dutch don't have hurricanes, after all, and don't have a river the scale of the Mississippi. You could hardly design a city more likely to suffer a major flood than NO.

    Probably the major political impediment to NO and LA building the levees right was the hope that, if they did nothing, federal money would magically rain from the sky and do it for "free."

    I think people who want to live in highly risky locations, such as coastal areas prone to hurricanes, should bear the costs of their decision. That means they should buy their own insurance with their own money, build their own levees with their own money, etc. I'm getting kind of tired of funding the coastal lifestyle for people who keep rebuilding where they know it will get knocked down again.

  • David Sucher||

    Of course! the breaching of a levee was not caused by global warming.

    And of course that is NOT what Kennedy wrote -- hey! but what are a few facts among friends?!

    But I wouldn't be so quick to suggest that the catastrophe in New Orleans has nothing to do with how we humans use the environment. In fact, the idea that " the catastrophe in New Orleans has nothing to do with how we humans use the environment" is preposterous. The catastrophe is precisely about how we build our cities and use our physical world.

    Now you can claim accurately that you didn't go that far and were merely attacking one narrow point about global warming. But Let's not be disingenuous. You and I know both full well that the import of Glassman's attack (and your bravo!) is attempt to diminish & dismiss environmental consciousness.

  • M1EK||

    "Probably the major political impediment to NO and LA building the levees right was the hope that, if they did nothing, federal money would magically rain from the sky and do it for "free.""

    And it should have - the port is a federal asset. Without it, the entire country will suffer.

  • Uncle Sam||

    Maybe the rest of the coutry could transport our garbage there to fill it in to 20 above sea level.
    We can always use places to dump our garbage.

  • Uncle Sam||

    Haven't recent decades been rather low for hurricane activity?

  • ||

    M1EK: They're equally vulnerable, but the damage takes different forms. Note that the actual port facilties of NOLA are above sea level, and probably are not nearly as damaged as Gulfport, or and maybe Mobile. It will easier to build housing in New Orleans to service the port than to rebuild the port and housing in Gulfport.

    The Feds have legal control over all things related to navigation (levees). You're correct that, if you're going to have a state, this is one the things they appropriately manage.

    RC: If you take "who pays for it" as a separate issue, you'll have an easier time seeing that sea level is just one the compromises man makes with nature. There's no risk of earthquake in NOLA. Nobody needs elaborate heating systems to survive 4 months every winter. The westbank is below sea level, too. That why the westbank developed later, the ground there is worse, low swamp. They avoid the east bank's current troubles because theyr'e not on the lake.

  • M. Simon||

    thoreau,

    Global warming has been discovered on Mars.

    So it may be happening - but is a natural phenom.

    OTOH Scientific American says that man pumping CO2 into the atmosphere for the last few thousand years may have prevented an ice age.

    Who ya gonna believe?

    Me? I believe I'll have another cup of coffee.

  • M. Simon||

    Re: Alaskan Bridges to utopia.

    This is politics.

    If the Feds are going to do an appropriation for something votes are required to pass the bill. Votes require some compensation. It may be that the Alaska bridge was the cheapest way to get the rest of the funding done.

    It is the price we pay for having elected representatives. Votes must be paid for.

    Libs of course would like to see politics disconnected from human passions. Reason uber alles.

    Not. Going. To. Happen.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement