Hard Rain Journal 7-27-06: Killer Heat Waves, Massive Blackouts -- You Were Warned 3 Years Ago
By Richard Power
Heat waves are shattering long-standing records across Europe and the United States. Heat waves impact productivity, cause blackouts and kill people. They degrade infrastructure, disrupt services and inflict financial losses.
In Europe today, heat waves resulting from climate change have forced governments to shut down cargo shipping on rivers in Poland and the Czech Republic and loosen environmental safety controls on nuclear power plants in France, Spain and Germany. It also caused a higher than usual sick rate in the Netherlands, and led Europe’s fruit and vegetable processing industry to warn of empty shelves in stores. (Similar problems are arising throughout the US, but unfortunately, the US mainstream news media, unlike the European mainstream news meda, refuses to connect the climate change dots and only reports on these problems as isolated weather stories, without acknowledge the role of global warming.)
Three years ago, you were warned.
Massive blackouts hit the northeastern US and eastern Canada in August 2003, and Italy in September 2003. Approximately 50 million people were affected in each instance. Both events resulted in billions of dollars in damages.
And in September 2003, a severe heat wave killed 14,802 people (mostly elderly) in France, and an estimated 50,000 people throughout Europe as a whole.
Is your organization prepared? Is your family prepared? Have you reviewed your business continuity, emergency preparedness and crisis management plans? Most plans now in place need to be revised to better cope with prolonged heat waves and infrastructure failures. You need to think differently about your organization’s energy resources. You need to think differently about telecommuting.
Climate change, like bird flu, provides an opportunity to engage and empower your people through awareness and education. Your organization needs to adapt, and it needs to do it rapidly and intelligently. It can be done economically, and effectively.
Most organizations did not heed the warning back in 2003.
I traveled the world between 2003 and 2005, talking to responsible executives and managers about the security implications of global warming and climate change, and I could see the disappointing truth behind the false attentiveness in their eyes; they could not see beyond what had happened before, they could not grasp what was in front of them or comprehend what was coming. Is it any different for you now? Those who understand what is happening today, and what it tells us about tomorrow, will act urgently, cleverly, and holistically.
Here are two useful links for Red Cross recommendations (but if you have not advanced beyond even these basic preparedness measures, your organization and your people are in trouble):
Heat Waves, Red Cross
Blackout Puts Spotlight on Preparedness, Red Cross
Here are two news wire stories that provide substantiation about the current situation in Europe:
A deadly heatwave gripping central Europe has raised fears of forest fires in Poland, sent electricity prices rocketing in Germany and caused the suspension of shipping on major rivers as water levels dwindle….Shipping on the river Elbe -- which also runs through the Czech Republic and Poland -- was stopped as water levels dropped nearly 1 metre (yard) to around 95 centimetres in Germany. "No cargo shipping is possible," said Herbert Dorf, a senior official at the Water and Shipping Bureau in Magdeburg. There is a similar situation with the Oder river, which forms a stretch of the border between Germany and Poland….A leading food industry group said Europe's shops and supermarkets are facing a shortage of vegetables later this year as a result of the current heatwave. According to OEITFL, which represents Europe's fruit and vegetable processing industry, shop owners must prepare for the likelihood of empty shelves, fridges and freezers. In the Netherlands, human resources firm Arbo Unie, which monitors 2.2 million workers in the country, said sick rates are 7.5 percent higher than last year due to the heat. Karin Strohecker, Europe heatwave sparks disruptions, fire fears, Reuters, 7-26-06
The extreme hot summer in Europe is restricting nuclear energy generation and showing up the limits of nuclear power, leading environmental activists and scientists say. The heat wave since mid-June has led authorities in France, Germany, Spain and elsewhere in Europe to override their own environmental norms on the maximum temperature of water drained from the plants' cooling systems. "For many years now, French authorities have defended nuclear power arguing that it is clean energy, good for the environment, and that it will help combat global warming, for it does not emit greenhouse gases," Stephane Lhomme, coordinator of the environmental network Sortir du Nucléaire (Phase Out Nuclear Power) told IPS. "Now, with global warming leading to extreme hot summers, we are witnessing that it is the other way round," Lhomme said. "Global warming is showing the limits of nuclear power plants, and nuclear power is destroying our environment." During the hot summer of 2003, French authorities had allowed nuclear power plants to drain excessively hot water into rivers, leading to considerable damage to flora and fauna, Lhomme said….In France, nuclear scientist Hubert Reeves urged the government to "invest massively" in renewable energy resources. "We are behind many of our European partners such as Germany, Denmark and Spain in this matter, and cannot wait until the energy crisis reaches its climax to find an alternative to our present model," he told IPS. A crisis, he said, "is round the corner." Fossil energy sources are about to be exhausted, and "nuclear technology will not solve present problems within a reasonable period of time.we should abandon nuclear power and invest in alternative sources." Julio Godoy, Heat Wave Shows Limits of Nuclear Energy, Inter Press Service, 7-27-06
The political establishment is not providing leadership. The news media is not providing leadership.
Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"
There is a powerful magic in personal commitment.
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Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net
Global Warming, Energy Security, Environmental Security, Alternate Energy, Sustainability, Renewable Resources, Climate Change, Weather, Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, Heat Wave, Blackouts, Extreme Weather, Europe