Why are the media telling you fairy tales about the real death toll in the Bahamas? We talk about the deadly storm Dorian with Canadian scientist Paul Beckwith. But what about the Siberian fires? Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist on the Copernicus project, “Europe’s eyes on Earth” reports they tracked over 100 big wildfires in the Arctic Circle – just since June. Then Beckwith and I return to analyzing public insanity and the unthinkable risks of changing the climate.
THE HIDDEN DEATH TOLL IN THE BAHAMAS AFTER HURRICANE DORIAN
News snippets coming out of the Bahamas islands after Hurricane Dorian are hiding the awful truth. The real death toll will be staggering. America is closing its doors to its next-door neighbors in need. It is bigger than that. What islands in the Caribbean will have to be abandoned?
Paul Beckwith teaches climate science, at universities and on the Net with more than 500 climate science videos on You tube. Paul is a regular contributor to Radio Ecoshock.
I was skeptical about Paul’s video on the Bahamian death toll, and his wild solution. It was too much, even for this show. But within 24 hours the mainstream media news was swinging right in Paul’s direction. They went from saying 10 or 20 people were confirmed dead in the storm to thousands missing. Paul Beckwith suggests many as 35,000 Bahamians could have been killed. Their bodies would have been swept out to see from the absolute wreckage of places like Marsh Harbor on Abaco Island in the Bahamas.
Plus there were at least 10,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants on Abaco and Grand Bahamas Islands. They escaped from the economic chaos in Haiti following the big earth quake there in 2010. Probably the Bahamian government doesn’t know how many lived in those shanty towns wiped out by Dorian. Relatives might not report the missing for fear of being deported themselves. Add it all up, and I suspect the real death toll on the Bahamas may never be known.
On Tuesday September 10, one week after Dorian pulled away from Grand Bahama, ABC News reported 50 dead, up from 35 the previous night. On Wednesday the authorities reported 2500 people missing, some of whom may have left the island.
But anyone looking at the aerial shots of wrecked places could know TV news reports of a dozen declared dead was just misleading nonsense that detracted from the seriousness of this event. It also helps bury the fury we can expect from Hurricanes now that the ocean is heating up, adding more energy to storms. It buries the extra rainfall those storms will pack and drop on us. And of course, if a Hurricane doesn’t kill Americans, it doesn’t count as much – at least that seems to be the way media works.
The Russians still claim only 30 people died from radiation at the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The Japanese say only 1 person died from all the radiation released when four nuclear reactors blew up at Fukushima. Why do governments have to hide deaths? Will we ever know the real number who passed because a Hurricane pumped up by climate change stalled over the Bahamas?
We may become numb to high death numbers eventually. Up to 70,000 people died in the French heat wave of 2003, possibly 60,000 in the Russian heat wave in 2010. The Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 killed over 200,000 people in Asia. So as climate change gets even worse with surreal events, I suppose we will accept numbers like 40,000 dead more easily?
BUY CRUISE SHIPS? TAKE ENDANGERED HUMANITY OUT TO SEA?
So if Paul’s higher death count emerges over the next few months, as I suspect it will, his solution seemed unlikely. Beckwith suggested the Bahamian government should buy cruise ships. These could be used to house the many thousands of homeless after the storm, complete with food and medical care. The same ships could be used to evacuate tens of thousands of people from the islands if another major hurricane is approaching. After Hurricane season, the Bahamian cruise ships could bring more tourists to the islands as always, but this time the local government keeps the profits.
It sounded logical but unlikely to me. But again, the very next night ABC News reported the Bahamian government was considering buying at least one cruise ship. Paul’s stock went up again. In this interview, Paul Beckwith wonders if the main population of the most at-risk islands could like on board ships, going to shore for growing food or running a tourist industry of temporary guests. Paul recently read a book on “seasteading” by Joe Quirk and there is a Seasteading Institute which contemplates humans in floating cities.
Thomas Rubio, an international aid worker in the Bahamas after the storm wrote “There is an exciting opportunity to turn the entire Abacos into a National Park based on the Exumas Land and Sea Park model, we are speaking with government.”
Listen to or download this 34 minute interview with Paul Beckwith in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
Find Paul at https://paulbeckwith.net
THE HANSEN PAPER ABOUT CARIBBEAN STORMS
The power of this storm reminded me of a paper by James Hansen and Paul Hearty. As part of their 121 page synthesis paper, they calculated that 100,000 years ago, monster storms, greater than we’ve ever seen, smashed into the Caribbean. That was in their paper “Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms”. Paul did about 9 videos on that a couple of years ago.
According to Hansen and Hearty, the storm surge left massive rocks, bigger than houses, high in the hills of some islands, including the Bahamian island of Eleuthra. They cited higher seas and violent storms as the cause. A second study from the University of Bremen, and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, said those rocks could have been tossed that high with today’s storms – when sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher during the Emian hot period about 125,000 years ago. As sea levels rise, and the oceans get hotter and hotter, we could see even bigger hurricanes that batter the Caribbean and the United States, forcing a retreat from the sea. I’ll have more on that big retreat from the coast in an upcoming Radio Ecoshock show.
HERE WE GO – WHAT CARIBBEAN ISLANDS WILL HAVE TO BE ABANDONED?
As soon as I saw the Bahamas storm news, I thought “here we go”. We need a map of which Caribbean islands are low enough they will become drowned countries, like the Pacific island countries of Tuvalu, Kiribati, or the Seychelles. So far I haven’t found a map showing the low elevation places, or a report on the future of the Caribbean in a new climate.
The other “here we go” is: where can the victims of our fossil fuel emissions go? The Trump administration acted even faster than usual to slam the door to their close neighbors from the Bahamas. Suddenly entry VISAs were required Bahamians fleeing by boat. No special exceptions will be made American officials said. Do you think it is just coincidental that many of the homeless survivors are black?
Some of the South Pacific Islands have already made arrangements for land for new settlements in places like Australia and New Zealand. When their homes get washed over, their lands riddled with salt, they have a place to go. I wonder why no one has started making plans from Caribbean countries?
A HURRICANE, AND DISASTER CAPITALISM IN THE CARIBBEAN
When Hurricanes Maria and Irma ripped through the Caribbean in late summer 2017, the island of Barbuda was totally abandoned, empty for the first time in 300 years. About 1300 people eventually returned, but they are living their without any services. Paul tells us Barbuda is a case in “Disaster Capitalism”. Most residents were kept off the island for months while big companies arrived to build an airport, with no consultation. The millions of dollars in pledges to help Barbuda after the hurricanes, including from Canada, have not been paid two years later!
Check out this article “After Irma Disaster Capitalism Threatens the Culture of Barbuda“.
Maybe we are seeing a new phenomenon: a combination of rising seas, leading to record storm surges, pairing up with Hurricanes at Category 5 strength and possibly beyond. Paul tells us for every degree rise in temperature there is 20-25% more chance of Cat 4 or 5 hurricanes. This may be a new level of threat to the Caribbean.
I saw a minor but important sign of the future in video from Hurricane Dorian. Someone was shooting the wild ocean waves off their balcony. But the ocean was really the main airport – so far underwater it just looked like the sea. That is the future for airports all over the world, including Vancouver International, and airports in Tokyo, all across Asia. Within the lifetimes of many listening, we will either stop flying or have to rebuild the infrastructure to do it.
You and I used to hope that when climate change revealed itself in big horrible events that killed tens of thousands of people – the public would suddenly wake up and demand action, even agree to painful changes as necessary. But now we have, as Naomi Klein predicted, just a new opportunity to rebuild the same old polluting system, with “Disaster Capitalism”. Let’s replace those shacks by the sea with brand new concrete condos that rise up on stilts! A bunch of tourists can buy them. I call that “the temporary future“, because none of it really works in a radical new climate. I see another round of fooling ourselves before any real wake up. Paul worries the due to pain of thinking about it, as climate disasters increase there may be fewer people willing to talk or hear about it. Are we already at that stage?
WHERE THERE’S ARCTIC SMOKE THERE’S FIRE – MARK PARRINGTON
In recent weeks my guests reported on fires in the Amazon, Angola, and Alaska. The new fire season in Australia is off to an ugly start, there are fires in California, and Indonesia has so many fires they are blanketing southeast Asia with smoke. But the hardest story to get seem to be the massive fires in Siberia this past summer.
Russian media tells us little about massive wildfires in Siberia this year. But the European “eyes in the sky” – the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service – can see it directly. Smoke from those fires traveled around the world.
Dr. Mark Parrington is a senior scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts [ECWMF]. He works on the Copernicus project, “Europe’s eyes on Earth”. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service [CAMS] has tracked over 100 big wildfires in the Arctic Circle – just since June.
In the middle of August Mark Parrington predicted smoke from Siberian wildfires would cross the Arctic Ocean to reach northern Greenland. Smoke reaching Greenland would be significant in darkening the ice there, leading to even more warming. Danish ice specialist Jason Box Tweeted August 8th “Greenland ice and snow recently at record darkness, not only at low elevations but at higher elevations.” Deposition of black carbon on the Russian Arctic coast was confirmed by satellite.
Predicting smoke from Siberia #wildfires to cross the Arctic Ocean and reach northern #Greenland over 13/14 August in latest #Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service aerosol forecast https://t.co/UsF4tI2ELB @CopernicusECMWF @ECMWF @CopernicusEU @CopernicusEMS pic.twitter.com/fdaLNtfRpI
— Mark Parrington (@m_parrington) August 13, 2019
I pictured the Arctic wind system generally circling around the Pole from West to East. How did smoke from Siberia get to Greenland across the Arctic Ocean? Mark explains.
But there is a complicating factor when we try to align big fires years directly with hot conditions. Some years when forests in the far north get to extreme high fire risks, often driven by strange heat in the Arctic – there is no big fire season. That is because another factor is required: ignition. Unlike Indonesia or the Amazon, the main ignition source in the Arctic is lightning. In a low lightning year, there are fewer fires. However some science suggests that changes in the atmosphere will make lightning storms in the north more prevalent, meaning more extreme fire seasons to come.
I asked Mark about the cooling effect of a big dome of smoke like the one recorded over Siberia this past summer. While it’s true smoke can cool the surface by shading it from the sun, some smoke particles (like black carbon) actually absorb more of the Sun’s heat. It is a complicated picture with no sure answers yet Mark says.
Mark briefly tells us what the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast is, and the Copernicus Project. When I ask about important research to come he surprises me. Most satellites orbit around the Earth, giving us data about some places during different times. Next Mark says we need more geostationary satellites that hover over a particular place of concern. Then we will get uninterrupted data which can help us do better predictions for regions and localities.
You can find out more about the Copernicus Project, including data available free to the public, at atmosphere.copernicus.eu
RECALLING LOVE AND LAUGHTER IN THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE
Let me add one personal story – and it is something that makes me less suitable to host this show. When I was 15 I took a bus to Florida around Spring Break. With little money, I looked for a way to get a dirt cheap hotel room and some food. It was cheaper to take a cruise ship to the Bahamas than stay in Fort Lauderdale, so I went.
Since I had no jacket and tie, ship management sent me to the back table – where all the Bahamian staff ate. We became friends. Landing at Nassau, a half dozen Bahamians took me in, loaded in an old car heading into the back hills. There I learned that white people are so up tight they barely know how to laugh and don’t think it’s right to laugh in public.
Photo Courtesy of Radio broadcaster Rogan, the Millenial Bahamian.
We danced all night, me a skinny teen, the only white person around. The Bahamians were so deeply friendly, so kind to me, so able to enjoy life. Now these thousands dead in the Bahamas, killed by a climate-enhanced hurricane Dorian, they are real to me. I mourn the people and the life lost there. I touched this story and got hurt. I dedicate this program to the good people of the Bahamas.
I will be back next week. I hope you will be too.
This is Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Please help me keep Radio Ecoshock going with your donation if you can. In fact the Ecoshock bank account is down to a few hundred dollars (not uncommon after the summer break). If there are any big donors out there who can afford $500 to $1,000 dollars – this would be a good time to ensure there is money to bankroll the new season! I hate feeling nervous about money even as I make my self nervous looking into disasters now and in the future.
Thank you for listening, and caring about our world.