Otis Elevated

Going express from "it's too early to say" to "nightmare scenario"


What remains of downtown Acapulco. Credit: Irving Pineda

Juiced by seas superheated by fossil-fuel pollution, piddly 55 mph Tropical Storm Otis thundered into 165 mph Category 5 Hurricane Otis in record speed as it crashed into Acapulco, Mexico early Wednesday morning, “wrecking homes, hotels and hospitals, and leaving a trail of destruction,” leaving at least 27 people dead. It had only begun life as a tropical depression on Sunday.

Meteorologists have come up with the term “rapid intensification” to describe hurricane growth in the Anthropocene, but Otis’s increase in speed of 95 knots (110 mph) in 24 hours was so shocking that hurricane scientist Kim Wood dubbed this “explosive intensification.” National Hurricane Center forecaster Eric Blake simply called it a “nightmare scenario.”

None of the computer models which predict hurricane intensity properly forecasted the threat,1 so Otis struck the million-person city effectively without warning, with deadly winds, floods, and landslides.

This monstrosity forced some mainstream media outlets out of climate silence on the role of fossil fuels: Bloomberg Opinion editor Mark Gongloff noted that oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the heat humans have created by burning fossil fuels,” and the “superheated water is like funny-car fuel for hurricanes.” And AP reporter Seth Borenstein explained “the oceans act as a sponge to absorb a lot of the excess heat caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas.”

“My confidence in forecasting storm intensity is decreasing,” warned experienced Miami meteorologist John Morales. “Future hurricanes are more likely than ever to be worse than any you’ve ever experienced.”

But don’t worry, Andrew Freedman used the euphemism “human-induced climate change” a few paragraphs before a Chevron greenwashing ad in the Axios Generate newsletter, the New York Times’s David Gelles used the “it’s too early to say” nonsense line, and BBC’s Isabelle Gerretsen and Jocelyn Timperley called Otis’s explosive intensification a “mystery.2 And these are all sincerely good reporters!

As opposed to this complete ass…

Climate denier Bret Baier’s solar-powered mansion is on the market

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued principles “that provide a high-level framework for the safe and sound management of exposures to climate-related financial risks” for large banks on Tuesday. They also released a major update for Community Reinvestment Act guidance, declaring that banks can get CRA credit for “investments that help communities prepare for and adapt to intensifying natural disasters.”

This effort was led by the acting comptroller of the currency Michael Hsu and FDIC chair Martin Gruenberg, with Fed chair Jerome Powell grudgingly going along. “We should not wait for a disaster to strike before we act,” Hsu said Tuesday. “Prudence demands we act as risks emerge.”

Avery Ellfeldt reports:

During an FDIC board meeting Tuesday, Gruenberg listed a range of examples including investments to promote green space in underserved areas, retrofit affordable housing to withstand future disasters and provide assistance to small farms plagued by drought.

However, as Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign strategist Adele Shraiman noted, the new rules fail to discourage financing for polluting industries.

Still, in this case the elevator is headed in the right direction.

Trump press secretary Lindsay Walters Clifton grabbing Jim Acosta’s mike in 2018. She’s now doing PR for the UN climate summit’s oily chief Sultan Al Jaber.

Let’s check in on our friends on the eco-fascist express elevator to hell, shall we?

Ben Stockton and Amy Westervelt investigate how Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO Sultan Al Jaber became president of COP28, the United Nations annual climate summit — with the help of PR companies like APCO, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, GMMB, Edelman, and Teneo working on both the oil and climate side of the fence. Trump deputy press secretary Lindsay “Mike Grabber” Walters Clifton, is at Edelman as Al Jaber’s direct “media support.”

The long Republican nightmare of squabbling to choose the next Speaker of the House after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was dethroned by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) finally ended yesterday with the election of “the most unabashedly Christian nationalist speaker in history,” election-and-climate denier Mike Johnson (R-La.), resuming our long national nightmare of a GOP-run House. Johnson (no relation) has indicated he will seek a continuing resolution potentially into mid-April to give House GOP time to pass draconian appropriations bills for FY2024 and fight it out with the Democratic Senate. If the continuing resolution goes through January 1st, automatic across-the-board spending cuts go into place—if the CR extends past April 30, the cuts are made permanent for the year.

Ed Pilkington and friend-to-the-newsletter Nick Surgey reveal a secret recording of legal strategists with several groups backed by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch expressing excitement that the new hard-right supreme court supermajority has created the potential for a concerted attack on the functions of federal agencies.

At 9:30 am, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management director Elizabeth Klein and NOAA fisheries assistant administrator Janet Coit testified before the Senate energy committee run by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on federal offshore energy strategy and policies. Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) expressed interest in renewable-energy progress like offshore wind; on the fossil-fuel side were Manchin, John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Chrissy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).

At 10 am, Senate Environment subcommittee chair Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) chaired the latest in his series of hearings on plastics, with witnesses Marcus Eriksen, Erin Simon, and Humberto Kravetz testifying on alternatives for single-use plastics.

Hearings on the Hill:

Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word. Climate resilience experts are convening in Washington D.C. tomorrow to envision realistic and hopeful climate migration policy — if you’re one of them, drop me a line. Connect with me@[email protected] and  @climatebrad.hillheat.com on BlueSky

1 Other than that of the world’s foremost cyclonic storm physicist, Dr. Kerry Emanuel. Thanks to Hunter Cutting for the correction.

2 In their Otis explainers, CNN’s Rachel Ramirez and NBC’s Evan Bush and Denise Chow similarly mentioned that climate change is caused by humans but not the centrality of fossil fuels.

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