Let’s Not Be Complacent about the New Virus

From TheConversation: The Trump administration has made the U.S. less ready for infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus.

Update: On a more positive note, the administration is gearing up to provide support for HHS to deal with the virus. See: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified Congress on Sunday it may need to transfer up to $136 million to help combat the fast-moving coronavirus epidemic, a new sign of how the White House has increased its response in recent days.

When Politics Interfered With Weather Forecasting – H. Dorian

From the WashPost: New emails show how President Trump roiled NOAA during Hurricane Dorian

A trove of newly released documents released on Friday evening provide the clearest glimpse yet into how President Trump’s inaccurate statements, altered forecast map and tweets regarding Hurricane Dorian’s forecast path rattled top officials along with rank and file scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in September.

Anticipating More Climate-Related Disasters

From the LA Times: Across the U.S., states are bracing for more climate-related disasters. Some excerpts:

The federal government is looking ahead as well. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is operating a $16-billion program to help coastal states prepare for natural disasters, a shift from the typical funding model of providing money after disasters have happened.

Even states whose leaders don’t publicly acknowledge the existence of climate change, such as Texas and South Carolina, have applied for federal dollars citing “changing coastal conditions” or “unpredictability,” the New York Times reported.

Politics Overrule Science

From The Conversation: ‘Sea-level rise won’t affect my house’ – even flood maps don’t sway Florida coastal residents

From GA State Univ.: Politics Overrule Science in At-Risk Coastal Residents’ Public Attitudes about Climate Change.  

Despite scientific evidence that rising sea levels due to climate change are a threat to property and lives, science plays second fiddle to politics in public attitudes about climate change and mitigation policies among coastal area residents most likely to be affected, according to urban geographer Risa Palm and political scientist Toby Bolsen of Georgia State University.

“Are these homeowners aware or concerned about their risk? Do they support policies and laws designed to mitigate the pace and extent of climate change that would, in turn, slow sea level rise?” are some questions they ask in their new book, “Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in South Florida: The View of Coastal Residents,” (Springer 2020).

Thanks to Chris Jones for the citation.

Special Note:  The Diva had an ebook version (140 pp.) and found a reader willing to do a book review. Watch for that review in a month or so.


Lagging Recovery Efforts in FL

Puerto Rico is not the only place dealing with major delays in federal funding for hurricanes years ago. See: Florida sits on $900M in aid while storm victims wait.  HUD’s disaster recovery grants are slow to go where they’re needed.

Tens of thousands of Floridians hammered by a run of deadly hurricanes are eligible for almost $900 million in federal disaster aid, but three years after Hermine, Matthew and Irma tore across the state, that money has barely been touched.

The state, like many others, is caught in the bureaucratic knot that governs disaster relief funds administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program, which by design has few set rules, has long been criticized for its complexity.

Some states have coped by setting up their own bureaucracies specifically to manage HUD disaster relief block grants. Not so Florida, the state most vulnerable to hurricane damage. There, the biggest obstacle to disaster relief is the Department of Economic Opportunity, which currently is standing between residents — some living in or near poverty — and $891.5 million in HUD block grants.

The state agency has spent only $29 million of that funding as of Jan. 1, nearly $21 million of which went to Innovation Emergency Management, a consulting firm the agency hired two years ago to help navigate the grants.

Now, Florida is anticipating an additional $735.5 million from HUD for Hurricane Michael and localities still reeling from the 2018 Category 5 storm have asked Gov. Ron DeSantis if they, not the department, can manage the cash.

Loss of Climate and Environmental Scientists

From the WashPost re Climate and Environment: Science ranks grow thin in Trump administration. Some excerpts:

The exodus has been fueled broadly by administration policies that have diminished the role of science as well as more specific steps, such as the relocation of agencies away from the nation’s capital.

While the administration has come under fire for prioritizing the concerns of industry at the expense of science in government decisions, the cumulative effects are just beginning to appear after three years of Trump in the White House.