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Climate Change vs Terrorism and the Costs of Inaction

At the turn of this century drought set in in the American Southwest, which persists to this day.

Without water, all living things cease to exist.

Even as the Southwest and other parts of the planet are parched by a warming planet, other parts are saturated by moisture that originally was evaporated from overheating dry latitudes and the oceans.  

The resultant storms and flooding also extinguishes lives.

September 11, 2001, four passenger airliners carrying 227 passengers and crew were hijacked by 19 Al Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes, were crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, which subsequently collapsed killing 2,606.

A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon killing 125 and the fourth was crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.

Nine days later President Bush declared a “War on Terror”.

The New York Times 10 year retrospective estimated the cost to America of 9/11 was $3.3 trillion.

According to the New York City comptroller’s office report one year after 9/11 the cost of replacing destroyed and damaged property totaled $55 billion. Included in this figure however was $29 billion for loss of life and injury thus the actual physical damage was $26 billion or 0.79% of the total cost of the War on Terror 10 years in.

The balance of the $3.3 trillion was made up as follows:

Economic Impact

$123 billion

Homeland Security, Related Costs

589 billion

War Funding, Related Costs

* 1,649 Billion

Future War and Future Veterans’ Care

867 Billion

Total

$3,228 Billion

* War Funding Costs were broken down as follows:

Iraq

** $803 billion

Afghanistan

402 billion

Misc.

444 billion

Total

$ 1,649 billion

** Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz claims the cost of the Iraq war alone could be almost 6 times higher but for the purposes of this article the lower number demonstrates the point, which is for every dollar in physical damage the terrorist did on 9/11 at least 100 times as much has been spent by the War on Terror to prevent a recurrence.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans killing at least 1,833 people while damaging and destroying $81 billion worth of property.

In response there was no declaration of war. Bill Gates and a number of co-inventors did however file five patent applications a few years later for a method of preventing a Katrina recurrence by pumping cold, deep-ocean water in the path of future storms.  

As Dr. Kevin Trenberth has pointed out, “There is a direct influence of global warming on precipitation. Increased heating leads to greater evaporation and thus surface drying, thereby increasing the intensity and duration of drought. However, the water holding capacity of air increases by about 7% per 1°C warming, which leads to increased water vapor in the atmosphere. Hence, storms, whether individual thunderstorms, extratropical rain or snow storms, or tropical cyclones, supplied with increased moisture, produce more intense precipitation events.”

Hurricanes form when the mean temperature of the oceans surface is greater than 26.8C. They dissipate when crossing over land or water that is 2C cooler.

The Gates proposal is to create this modifying cooling by pumping deep cold water to the surface in the path of a storm.

In 2010, Toshihiko Sakurai filed a patent application for a Sea Surface Cooling System Utilizing OTEC. He proposes generating mechanical power with ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and using this to pump cool deep seawater upward for cooling the hot sea surface.

Sakurai’s rationale differs from Gates however; in that he fears water vapor may soon replace CO2 as the predominant greenhouse gas with thermal runaway the consequence.  As he puts, “it will be necessary to take more dependable measures to cool the global surface, and particularly the sea surface, directly . . .Once the mini thermal runaways have started to happen, it may no longer be possible to prevent the progression of the global warming by only reducing artificial CO2 emissions. Even if the excess amount of CO2 is reduced considerably, the global warming triggered by weak CO2 greenhouse effect will be accelerated through the increase in the amplification factor caused by a rise in the sea surface temperature due to intense double positive feedback”, which he describes as the greenhouse effect of water vapor combined with a sunshine effect induced by decreased low cloud cover.

It seems to me, you would get the same hurricane and thermal runaway benefit by producing all of the energy possible with OTEC. Hurricanes and OTEC compete for the same source of energy; the seas surface temperature. To the extent OTEC would draw off this heat and pumps even more heat into deep water it would no longer be available to power hurricanes or the increased ocean evaporation that could lead to thermal runaway.

In the 8 years since Katrina, little has been done on either the hurricane or thermal runaway fronts even as billions have been spent on the War on Terror.

According to the 2012 Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report of Aon Benfield, a global provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, last year produced $65 billion in damage due to Hurricane Sandy,$35 billion in damage due to the drought in the Midwest/Plains and Super Typhoon Bopha killed more than 1,900 people in the Philippines.

All, or most of this, could have been prevented by sapping the oceans surface temperature to produce power and by moving water from Canada, already blessed with an overabundance which is predicted to increase by as much as 30 percent this century due to climate change, to the areas of drought.  

The U.S. accounted for nearly 90% of all the world’s insured losses in 2012. Largely preventable disasters caused economic losses of $200 billion, which is just above the 10- year average of $187 billion.

A report in October 2012 from Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance firm, said that climate change was driving the increase in natural disasters since 1980, and predicted that those influences will continue in years ahead.

What kind of mind set eagerly fights a War on Terror, while laying down arms in the face of the more predictable and preventable threat facing our children and grandchildren? A threat that can be fought with tools that could generate $5 trillion/year in renewable energy.

Our response to climate change to date has been effectively to surrender our shorelines and coastal cities without a fight.

The War on Terror has created tensions between both friends and foe and has impeded international trade and commercial aviation.

A War on Climate Change could provide all of the renewable energy and water we can use, reduce the threat of tropical storms and sea level rise as well as terrorism, which is currently focused on and is financed by Middle Eastern oil.

Any terrorist with sufficient intent and discretion can cause significant damage without anyone’s prior knowledge or ability to respond.

In the alternative Nature is constantly telegraphing her intentions and yet we do little to nothing.

Perhaps we need to brand Mother Nature a “terrorist”?.

 

That seems to be the only actionable trigger in most of our leaders’ minds.

Perhaps not doing so is to commit the ultimate act of terrorism in that inaction could well lead to the extinction of our species.

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