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L. Hunter Lovins
When flood waters rose in Houston and Hurricane Harvey spread eastward to already battered regions of the Gulf coast, the urgent priority was preservation of life, evacuation of those threatened and long-term care of the displaced. The unfolding tragedy that is Harvey has already killed dozens, with more to come. Cost estimates rose from $30 billion before the storm, to $75 billion, as the severity became obvious, to over $100 billion. Harvey will certainly exceed Katrina, the previous record holder, costing up to one percent of U.S. GDP.
As usual, Americans reached deep to lend sympathy, understanding and practical assistance. As always, groups like the Red Cross stepped up, offering Text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10
But is anyone responsible for Harvey?
When the Deep Horizon well blew out, no one questioned that the parties who killed eleven people and spewed oil across the Gulf of Mexico would be held to account. The only question was how much. BP’s costs for taking a $500,000 short cut was in the neighborhood of $62 billion, although they offset many of the fines against taxes.
Damage from storms has routinely been considered an “Act of God.” Legal dictionariesdefine this as, “An event that directly and exclusively results from occurrence of natural causes that could not have been prevented by the exercise of foresight or caution; an inevitable accident.”
But is that true of Harvey?
The ultra warm waters of the Gulf and the tendency of storms now to move very slowly—the warming arctic is unable to maintain the jet stream that previously blew such storm away from the hot Gulf that fuels them—clearly contributed to the billions in damage. These, we now know, are results of global warming.