June 1 marked the start of hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin. While not welcome, tropical storms, strong winds, and storm surges are an inevitable fact of life for many residents of the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast. As a new paper from the Center for Progressive Reform explains, with those storms can come preventable toxic flooding with public health consequences that are difficult to predict or control.
In Ernest Hemingway’s 1970 novel, Islands in the Stream, he wrote of his protagonist, Thomas Hudson, “He knew how to plot storms and the precautions that should be taken against them. He knew too what it was to live through a hurricane with the other people of the island and the bond that the hurricane made between all people who had been through it.”
Only Hemingway could romanticize hurricanes. And things have only gotten worse. Last month, a study by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that hurricanes have become more intense and destructive over the last four decades. Climate change is largely responsible for these increasingly powerful storms, which can in turn yield sea level rise and flooding that make matters worse.
While Hudson may …
Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.
If we get a vaccine against a national epidemic, could Congress pass a law requiring everyone to get vaccinated? That very question was asked during the Supreme Court argument in the 2012 constitutional challenge to Obamacare’s individual mandate. The lawyer challenging Obamacare said, “No, Congress couldn’t do that.”
What’s shocking is that this may have been the correct answer. Conservatives on the Supreme Court have curtailed Congress’s ability to legislate about anything other than economic transactions, and an epidemic is not an economic transaction.
JUSTICE BREYER: I’m just picking on something. I’d like to just — if it turned out there was some terrible epidemic sweeping the United States, and we couldn’t say that more than 40 or 50 percent . . . — you’d say the Federal …
This post was co-authored by Kevin Morris, a J.D. candidate at the University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law. He serves as a research assistant for Maxine Burkett. This post was originally published by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat.
In Alaska's arctic communities, Inuit contemplating the need to relocate have reported that the loss of sea ice would make them feel like they are lost or going crazy. Zika and other vector-borne diseases have been a concern primarily for people in the southeastern United States. Recent research on the long-range internal migration of people from the coasts to the interior suggests a broader national concern regarding "climate augmentation" of disease. These are just two examples of the many public health effects we can expect as climate change forces people to uproot themselves.
In the future …
Climate change is having significant effects on the ocean. Sea levels are rising. The ocean is becoming warmer, and because the ocean absorbs chemically reactive carbon dioxide, its pH is dropping. Hurricanes, typhoons, and other coastal storms are becoming stronger on average. Marine species are on the move, generally shifting toward the poles and, to a lesser extent, deeper. Coral reefs are dying.
Clearly, the climate impacts on the ocean are cause for concern. Between 2013 and 2016, the ocean along United States' west coast experienced a three-year surge of hot water that National Geographic dubbed "The Blob that Cooked the Pacific." Perhaps most fittingly, on Halloween 2018, Nature published a new study indicating that the ocean is warming 60 percent more per year than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had projected.
So, yes, there is cause for serious concern. And it's not …