Researchers find mixed values for “thoughts and prayers”

❝ An experiment led by Assistant Professor Linda Thunstrom, of the Department of Economics in UW’s College of Business, found that Christians who suffer such adversity value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers, while atheists and agnostics believe they are worse off from such gestures…

❝ The debate over the value of “thoughts and prayers” has come to the forefront as a result of the verbal responses of political and other leaders to mass shootings and natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires. Some critics argue that expressing sympathy through thoughts and prayers is a meaningless gesture in response to tragedy — and that, in some cases, it’s an excuse to not take action…

❝ Specifically, the study found that, on average, Christian hurricane victims value prayers from a Christian stranger at $4.36, and $7.17 from a priest. In contrast, non-religious people are willing to pay $3.54 for a Christian stranger and $1.66 for a priest to not pray for them.

Likewise, Christians value thoughts from a religious stranger at $3.27, while non-religious people negatively value the same gesture at -$2.02.

You can find details over here. Chuckles pretty much anywhere.

The areas America could abandon first because of climate change

❝ You could drive a shrimp boat 1,300 miles along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi to Fort Myers and not pass a single county or parish that voted against Donald Trump. The cities and towns along that shoreline had better hope he remembers their support: Without increasing levels of federal spending, climate change could push parts of them out of existence.

So far this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent $1.1 billion on what are called Individual Assistance payments, which help households recover from natural disasters. There are no limits on the number of times a household can apply, so the program isn’t just a safety net; for some people, it’s effectively a subsidy to live in areas that are especially vulnerable to hurricanes, floods and storm surges.

❝ That hasn’t gone unnoticed in Washington. In 1999, a Nebraska congressman introduced a bill preventing some properties with multiple claims from getting help — not just disaster relief, but also subsidized flood insurance. Two years later, the George W. Bush administration’s first budget proposed denying aid to the “worst offending repetitive loss properties.” Under President Barack Obama, FEMA proposed reducing disaster aid for public buildings damaged more than once in the previous decade if local governments hadn’t done anything to protect them…

None of those proposals took effect. But as extreme weather gets worse, those federal subsidies will only become more expensive — increasing the need to rethink government support for those who choose to live in harm’s way…

That means it’s time to consider an impolitic question: If federal support gets rolled back, which areas will people have the greatest incentive to leave?

Nice in-depth article. Filled with facts and data required by decision-makers and folks making big and little business decisions. Where to locate. What markets will grow. Nothing a Trump Chump ever cares about.

BP will settle 25,000 lawsuits over toxic Texas refinery


Click to enlargeAP/MSNBC

BP is poised to settle a mass tort lawsuit with more than 25,000 people who were exposed to toxic emissions from its southeast Texas refinery.

A common sight in Texas, flares intermittently crown refineries and chemical plants like huge Olympic torches.

Flares are as a last-resort pollution-control measure. They burn off excess gases that can’t be recycled. They are also deployed during power outages or when plants are shut down for maintenance.

The BP litigation arose from a faulty flare at its Texas City refinery…

More than 40,000 residents of Texas City and neighboring La Marque sued BP, claiming that over 40 days in April and May 2010 the company released more than 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including carcinogenic benzene, after diverting the compounds to the flare that was only 33 to 66 percent efficient…

Due to the volume of cases, they were funneled to Galveston County Judge Lonnie Cox by the Texas multidistrict litigation panel, to streamline pretrial proceedings, which is regularly done for asbestos cases…

Cox dismissed about 20,000 claimants from the case Monday, granting a motion for summary judgment in which BP claimed the litigants had no evidence of damages caused by the toxins.

Anthony Buzbee represents dozens of the more than 25,000 remaining plaintiffs…“These were mostly people who didn’t respond to repeated requests for information. That is common in a mass tort with this many plaintiffs,” Buzbee said…about the dismissed cases…

Buzbee, a high-profile Houston attorney, is very familiar with BP, having represented litigants who sued the company over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BP attorney James Galbraith declined comment and the company has not publicized the amount of the impending settlement.

Texas City refining has a long and dangerous history, disasters have claimed anywhere from dozens to hundreds of lives each time. While the Oil Patch Boys lead the world in whining about over-regulation, this history makes clear that the lives of workers in these facilities means next to nothing to the owners – or state officials who bear much of the responsibility for death and destruction. Whether it was eventful and grabbed headlines – or destroyed the lives of thousands of families over decades.

Will monster wildfire seasons become the new normal?


Harley looks just like our Sheila

In the end, Ira and Carolyn Hodge drove out with some photos, their clothes, their horse and their dog, Harley.

Their home took seven years for them to build and contained everything they owned – vehicles, mementos from their parents, memories. All of it was reduced to fine ash when the fire swept down the high sides of the densely forested gorge that bottoms out at Canyon Creek in Grant County, Oregon, six hours’ drive east of Portland.

“It was a monster,” Ira says. “A beast.”

He and Carolyn were helping a neighbour hose down their house when it became clear the fire was moving with astonishing speed towards them. “We had five minutes to get out,” Ira recalls. They tossed the few things they had gathered in their car, rounded up their frightened horse and fled over a wooden bridge that burned behind them.

Ira has since talked to experts who came up to survey the damage. They said that the flames may have reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt copper and aluminium. They sifted through the rubble and there was almost nothing left.

Harley recovered just one possession: a charred bone he had buried somewhere in the yard.

When you drive south out of John Day, up into the canyon towards the Malheur national forest, the flattened homes and the blackened Douglas firs and ponderosas tell this summer’s story.

Wildfires are capricious, and some houses are untouched. But those that the fire found were razed, and the forest it burned will take decades to recover.

Thirty-six homes were destroyed in Grant County on 14 August. That night, the Canyon Creek Complex fire became the most destructive in Oregon for 80 years. The national media glanced and moved on, but the fire is still burning on just over 105,000 acres. That’s about 10 times the size of Manhattan.

In Oregon as a whole, there are 11 large fires burning on 435,799 acres. In Washington there are 14 burning on 900,000 acres. This season – which is still in full swing – has seen 1,422,880 acres burned in the two states, or 2,223 square miles, an area just a little smaller than the state of Delaware.

More than 11,000 firefighters are still in the field. Firefighting resources in the American west are completely committed, and both states have called out their national guardsmen to help contain the blazes. Firefighters have come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to pitch in, and three firefighters died while in duty.

RTFA. These fires have become an annual national emergency. People are to blame, habits and carelessness are to blame, short-term weather is often to blame and, yes, climate change plays a significant role.

That may be hard to understand for someone who has never had their home or community threatened by a wildfire; but, it is true.

I do not count climate change deniers as relevant. It’s hard to count them as useful citizens of Earth.

Is your state ready for climate disasters?

disaster-readiness-map

Whether it’s wildfires in the West, drought in the Midwest, or sea level rise on the Eastern seaboard, chances are good your state is in for its own breed of climate-related disasters. Every state is required to file a State Hazard Mitigation Plan with FEMA, which lays out risks for that state and its protocols for handling catastrophe. But as a new analysis from Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law reveals, many states’ plans do not take climate change into account…

While FEMA itself acknowledged this summer that climate change could increase areas at risk from flooding by 45 percent over the next century, states are not required to discuss climate change in their mitigation plans. The Columbia analysis didn’t take into account climate planning outside the scope of the mitigation plans, like state-level greenhouse gas limits or renewable energy incentives. And as my colleague Kate Sheppard reported, some government officials have avoided using climate science terminology even in plans that implicitly address climate risks; states that didn’t use terms like “climate change” and “global warming” in their mitigation plans were docked points in Columbia’s ranking algorithm.

Michael Gerrard said he wasn’t surprised to find more attention paid to climate change in coastal states like Alaska and New York that are closest to the front lines. But he was surprised to find that a plurality of states landed in the least-prepared category, suggesting a need, he said, for better communication of non-coastal risks like drought and heat waves.

The Koch Bros and their tools in the Republican Party got one thing right. Americans are such a political lazyass nation that the easiest lie to sell is one that concludes we needn’t do a damned thing.

Between lying about climate change, ignoring the effects of climate change, staking absolutely NO claim either for causing climate change or taking responsibility to reverse climate change – reactionary politicians have charted the perfect course for American voters.

Just imitate the Do-Nothing Congress!

Climate change lessons from Ronald Reagan

The re-election of President Obama, preceded by the extraordinary damage done by Hurricane Sandy, raises a critical question: In the coming years, might it be possible for the United States to take significant steps to reduce the risks associated with climate change?

A crucial decision during Ronald Reagan’s second term suggests that the answer may well be yes. The Reagan administration was generally skeptical about costly environmental rules, but with respect to protection of the ozone layer, Reagan was an environmentalist hero. Under his leadership, the United States became the prime mover behind the Montreal Protocol, which required the phasing out of ozone-depleting chemicals.

There is a real irony here. Republicans and conservatives had ridiculed scientists who expressed concern about the destruction of the ozone layer. How did Ronald Reagan, of all people, come to favor aggressive regulatory steps and lead the world toward a strong and historic international agreement?

A large part of the answer lies in a tool disliked by many progressives but embraced by Reagan (and Mr. Obama): cost-benefit analysis. Reagan’s economists found that the costs of phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals were a lot lower than the costs of not doing so — largely measured in terms of avoiding cancers that would otherwise occur. Presented with that analysis, Reagan decided that the issue was pretty clear.

Much the same can be said about climate change. Recent reports suggest that the economic cost of Hurricane Sandy could reach $50 billion and that in the current quarter, the hurricane could remove as much as half a percentage point from the nation’s economic growth. The cost of that single hurricane may well be more than five times greater than that of a usual full year’s worth of the most expensive regulations, which ordinarily cost well under $10 billion annually. True, scientists cannot attribute any particular hurricane to greenhouse gas emissions, but climate change is increasing the risk of costly harm from hurricanes and other natural disasters. Economists of diverse viewpoints concur that if the international community entered into a sensible agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the economic benefits would greatly outweigh the costs…

The electricity sector is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In this domain, any regulations must be carefully devised, as they were in the case of fuel economy, to ensure that they do not impose unjustified costs, especially in an economically difficult period. But just as in that case, it should be possible to work with affected companies to identify flexible and cost-conscious approaches, producing reductions while minimizing regulatory burdens…

For those who seek to reduce the risks associated with climate change, it is ironic but true that the best precedent comes from a conservative icon. The big question now is whether today’s Republicans will follow Reagan’s example.

Of course, the good professor has his pointy head up his butt when it comes to characterizing progressives – especially enviros – as refusing cost-benefit analysis. It’s one of the most boring areas of expertise often over-utilized by today’s activists. The only time it gets problematical is when the folks I fondly refer to as the “New Age Left” get carried away, applying great quantities of ersatz maths to condemn cuckoo farts as critical to reducing carbon emissions.

You know what I mean.

Still, if Professor Sunstein thinks he can convince, say, Darrell Issa or Mitch McConnell to peek at the reams of spreadsheets and computerized projection that scientists have been offering for the last dozen years and more – more power to him. I’m only interested in future generations being able to enjoy life on this planet as much as I have. Perhaps more.