Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Common Sense: An Endangered Species?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Perhaps it’s been said before – “common sense isn’t so common anymore.”

Maybe even, at one time, or another, you’ve said as much.

Common sense, of course, is a thought process that implies a.) one is thinking, and b.) one is using process of reasoning.

And, without exception, EVERYONE thinks. Not everyone exercises good judgment.

Some take common sense for granted, while others do not.

Common sense may arise from experience, and/or education, and sometimes, experience is a harsh taskmaster – lessons learned aren’t always learned the easiest, or best way. But, it’s education nevertheless.

Point being, is that when we think, we use our highest and best faculties, which separates us and makes us unique in the animal kingdom.

So let’s quickly talk about common sense and politics – an area in which many seem to disagree, some even vehemently, and unfortunately, sometimes violently.

When we fight, we often “lose our mind,” and are motivated and actuated by feelings… which can often betray us. Yet, even in structured fighting, such as war, we employ our faculties of reason to win the victory. War, its strategies and tactics, is studied, and taught. So that very act itself demonstrates that our thinking faculties are a higher order than feeling.

Note that instead of saying “I think,” many people say, “I feel.”

That, I think, is a mistake to say that one “feels” rather than “thinks” when expressing an opinion, for it – the feeling – is something which rationally, one cannot argue against. Feelings may be pleasant, or unpleasant. And if one feels this way, or that way, it is a merely a feeling – and may be, and often is, fleeting, or passing – it is temporal, and lasts only briefly. Consider the feeling of being sad, bloated, or even gassy.

This too, shall pass.

But let’s not delve too deeply into the matter, not to become too philosophical or analytical, per se, and suffice it to say that we want to share some common sensical thoughts – ones that many, if not most, or, even all, could agree upon – in the realm of politics.

It is, after all, political season, and we human beings are political animals.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat representing New York’s 14th Congressional District, has proposed a “Green New Deal,” which some detractors have attempted to vilify, for one reason, or another. The ostensible purpose for the prospective plan is to ameliorate, as much as possible, the documented contributing factors of climate change, a very real problem with very real consequences, one even which our Department of Defense has acknowledged has severe, even devastating possibilities for world peace, and civilization. Green New Deal FINAL

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has represented New York’s 14th Congressional District since January 3, 2019, and is a Democrat.

Part of the objectives of the GND are economic in nature, to boost our nation’s economy, as well as to reduce our harmful effects upon the environment as we grow. It is, for all practical purposes, an investment in advancement of technology, science, and economics.

While in principle, I am in agreement with that objective – to care for our environment as good stewards (and in our interest of self-preservation) – I remain convinced that there should be an additional response (as do many other high-level economic researchers and prognosticators), that being, to respond to the environmental damages wrought by climate change, including flooding, storm damage, and more, by building infrastructure. One doesn’t argue about the causes of rain when there’s a hole in the roof. The wise person patches the roof.

The creation of a reinvigorated, more robust economic infrastructure, which would ameliorate – to as great an extent as possible – the damages wrought by hurricanes, tornadoes, and yes, even fires, would SAVE not only lives, but money, and property. And insurers would rejoice.

The Geneva Association (properly, The “International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics”) is a leading international think tank of the insurance industry, which detects early ideas and emerging debates on political, economic and societal issues concerning the insurance industry.

In November 2018, they published a research paper titled “Global Weather Catastrophes, Trends, Losses, Insurance Costs Source: Managing Physical Climate Risk—Leveraging Innovations in Catastrophe Risk Modelling,” and in it, wrote in part that,

“Over the last three and a half decades, we have observed a trend of rising economic losses from extreme events globally. Between 1980 and 2017, Munich Re’s NatCatSERVICE reported 17,320 disaster loss events. Of those, 91.2% were caused by weather-related extremes (meteorological, hydrological and climatological events), accounting for 49.2% of the total of 1,723,738 lives lost, 79.8% of the total USD 4,615 billion in reported economic losses and 90.1% of total insured losses of USD 1,269 bn.

“In 2017, weather-related extremes accounted for 97% of total reported economic losses and 98.2% of total insured losses. A significant portion of economic losses, particularly in the middle- and high-income countries, were caused by damages to infrastructure.

“Destruction, disruption, interruption in critical infrastructure could lead to cascading effects across sectors and sometimes across borders, causing significant harm to populations’ well-being and hindering socio-economic growth. Over the last three and a half decades, a significant portion of economic losses were related to impacts of weather-related extremes such as inland and coastal floods, windstorms, hurricanes, droughts and heat waves on critical infrastructure.”

NatCatSERVICE is “Natural Catastrophe” Service, a natural disaster and economic modeling program, while Munich Re is one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, and headquartered in that Munich, Germany.

More recently, this past June 2020, The Geneva Association published a report titled “Flood Risk Management in the United States: Building flood resilience in a changing climate” which made an interesting, if not possibly distressing observation, that “Post-disaster federal aid to households is limited, and families seldom get full support for financial recovery. Federal disaster aid for local governments, however, is generally more generous. This may give local governments perverse incentives since they reap the benefits of lax floodplain land use but most of the flood costs are paid by the federal taxpayer.

“Forward planning to address increasing flood risks from climate change at the national level has also been difficult to motivate in the current political environment. With increasing flood risk linked to continued floodplain and watershed development, aging infrastructure, sea level rise, and changing precipitation and storm patterns, many stakeholders have been calling for more aggressive investments in forward-looking flood mitigation measures. However, more aggressive mitigation efforts are necessary for properties that repeatedly suffer flood damage and more investments are needed to upgrade ageing infrastructure and adapt it for climate change.

As well, the next moth, in July, Aon, a London-based risk management and financial services consulting firm, released their “Global Catastrophe Recap: First Half of 2020″ report, which stated in part that 69% of the world’s insured losses from natural disasters occurred in the United States, with 10 billion-dollar severe weather-related economic loss events alone.

Furthermore, Munich Re’s July 23 media release headlined “Very high losses from thunderstorms–The natural disaster figures for the first half of 2020” stated in pertinent part, that

“One of the largest severe thunderstorm outbreaks in 2020 occurred over the Easter weekend, when a strong frontal system over the Southeastern United States spawned dozens of tornadic thunderstorms and produced hailstones the size of tennis balls. A total of 140 tornadoes in 10 states were recorded, of which 3 reached EF4 intensity, the second-highest rating, with winds up to 300 km/h (186 mph). Countless homes were completely destroyed, and cars and buses were tossed into the air. The strongest tornado in Mississippi’s history was recorded during this outbreak. Its funnel was more than three and a half kilometres (2.25 miles) across at its widest point, and the twister stayed on the ground for almost 100 km (62 miles) before dissipating. Its path of destruction could be seen in satellite images, though fortunately the storm missed major population centers in the area. In total, the severe storms resulting from this outbreak caused overall losses of US$ 3.4bn, of which US$ 2.6bn was insured and 38 people lost their lives.

Ernst Rauch, Chief Climate and Geo Scientist at Munich Re, expressed his concern: “While we cannot attribute individual events to climate change, the trend in our data clearly shows that losses from severe thunderstorms, particularly in North America, are on the rise, largely as a result of population and exposure growth in suburban and exurban regions as well as increased property values and poor construction practices. A contribution of climate change is also seen likely because higher temperatures and greater humidity favour the development of weather patterns like these. Even in these times of global pandemic, we should not forget that climate change is also a risk with systemic elements.””

Munich Re’s July report also featured a statement by Torsten Jeworrek, Member of the Board of Management, which read, “The natural disaster statistics for the first half of 2020 point to two things in particular: One: severe thunderstorms in North America dominate the loss figures; this demonstrates the need to strengthen building resilience to mitigate losses. Two: this is especially relevant because climate change is likely to play a role in increasing the thunderstorm risk in North America in the long term. The world finally needs to take vigorous action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent losses and ensure we are not taken unawares by the consequences of climate change, as we were with the current coronavirus pandemic.”

Our neighbors across the Atlantic Ocean in the Netherlands demonstrated great wisdom by wasting no time building protective infrastructure immediately following the devastation of the North Sea Flood on the night of January 31, 1953 which submerged 625 square miles of that nation under 18 feet of water, on average, 40% of which is below sea level, with 50% being a mere 3 feet above sea level. The severity of the storm was so great, that it affected the United Kingdom, and Belgium, as well as the Netherlands.

The name given to their longterm plan was Delta Werks, and the wesbite states that, “If there were no levees, dunes or storm-surge barriers, 66% of the country, including cities like Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam would flood on a regular basis. Moreover, this flooding would consume the high-earning areas, which account for up to 70% of the country’s GDP.”

Their prudence was proven on December 5, 2013 when a strong Extra-Tropical Cyclone (ETC) named Xaver with wind speeds comparable to a Category 1 hurricane landed in Scotland, and then moved southward across the North Sea into the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. The Environment Agency (EA) warned that significant coastal tidal surges would occur, along with record-setting high sea levels, much greater than those in 1953.

With it, storm surge water levels in the Netherlands rose to 3.99 m (13.1 ft) above Normal Sea Level, making it the highest level since the North Sea flood of 1953. Estimated surface wind speeds were similar to those during the 1953 North Sea storm.

The coordinated closure of several water barriers, including the Eastern Scheldt barrier – which was closed for the first time in 6 years – successfully held back the rising waters, and damage was minimal. Consequently, the Netherlands’ flood disaster risk has been significantly reduced because of their modern-day levee/water management infrastructure.

Meteorologically, of course, future storms similar to, and even greater than, the 1953 North Sea Flood and Xaver could occur, but because of Netherlanders long-sightedness, the risk of disastrous flooding in that nation has been greatly reduced.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has calculated that, adjusted for inflation the cost of insured losses alone wrought by hurricanes from 1986-2015 in this nation is $515.4 billion. That’s excluding uninsured costs, which are even greater.

And, according to NOAA, “the U.S. has sustained 241 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2018). The total cost of these 241 events exceeds $1.6 trillion.” That’s money taken out of our economy. What if, instead, we had invested at least half that amount to prevent such losses? We’d be that much, and more, ahead, economically.

And those figures and items are for climate-related economic losses, whether catastrophic, or not – though they’re often catastrophe-related.

Let’s also mention roadways and transportation as part of that necessary economic infrastructure.

Use of air transportation has increased as prices have lowered, and offerings have similarly increased. Those aircraft use fuel, and create exhaust. What if we supplemented our transportation economic infrastructure with high-speed, mag-lev monorail trains coast-to-coast? Those trains have no emissions, and operate at speeds well in excess of 375mph. Nations which have high speed trains include France, China, Germany, Japan, Greece, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, Austria, Uzbekistan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Belgium, Taiwan, Spain, South Korea, Morocco, and the United Kingdom. It does make me curious why the United States is absent that list. Imagine what it’d be like to be able to see America’s splendor and natural beauty at ground level on your next journey – and create zero emissions in the process.

And then, we have an aging Interstate system, highways in all the 50 states, and potholes in every town across America.

America’s needs are great, but her people are greater, and well up to the task to build it back better.

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