What Does Katrina Mean?

With New Orleans and the Gulf Coast still a chaotic wreck, I’ve tried to hold off discussing Katrina in relation to broader topics such as climate change and environmental policy. This is a discussion that needs to happen, though, and many members of the Sustainable Blogospher have chimed in:

  • The Sierra Club’s Daily Scoop takes brief yet complex look at Katrina’s relationship to climate change. Ultimately, we are seeing a pattern of more powerful storms, but to chalk that up completely to human-induced global warming misses the whole picture.
  • Tim Haab at Environmental Economics takes a look at the “trickle-down effect” the storm will have on the US economy. Some of these consequences (as Tim points at) should be obvious: prices for gas, natural gas, jet fuel, etc., will rise. Others may not be as obvious, but will clearly impact all of us: higher coffee prices (yikes!), higher prices for construction materials, and, interestingly enough, lower farm-level grain prices: “With the port or New Orleans shut down, Midwest farmers can’t export their grain crops. Might be good for U.S. consumers but bad for U.S. farmers.”
  • Elsa at the greener side considers funding choices made in Washington that likely had a direct impact on the federal government’s ability to respond to the disaster.
  • RealClimate offers an explanation of the relationship between Katrina and global warming. In short:

there is no way to prove that Katrina either was, or was not, affected by global warming. For a single event, regardless of how extreme, such attribution is fundamentally impossible. We only have one Earth, and it will follow only one of an infinite number of possible weather sequences. It is impossible to know whether or not this event would have taken place if we had not increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as much as we have. Weather events will always result from a combination of deterministic factors (including greenhouse gas forcing or slow natural climate cycles) and stochastic factors (pure chance).

  • Gristmill’s been keeping a close eye on all things Katrina, including thoughts on what the storm and aftermath might show us about our dependence on oil (spoiler: Rep. Joe Barton thinks it demonstrates why we need to drill in Alaska), links to stories on New Orleans’ “environmental madness,” and healthy sarcasm for the right-wing religious nuts characterizing the storm as God’s wrath for New Orleans’ tolerance of gays.

Just scratching the surface of the many discussions already underway. Of course, as we discuss all of these issues, don’t forget that thousands of victims of the storm are still in desperate need of assistance.

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