Solo Rischiando tu Vivrai
The title is from Andrea Bocelli’s love song to God, “Un Nuovo Giorn" (A New Day). Solo rischiando tu vivrai translated means "Only [by] risking will you live.”
I was thinking about this song a few days ago during a meeting with people who are on the front lines of disaster preparedness. The fact is, we have advanced so much with what we have built in this country that the impact of weather is much, much greater. But what are you going to do? Not build? Not advance? Not risk?
Do you wish to exist or to live?
In the whole crazy world that weather and climate have been drawn into, there is an elevated sense of pain, and it’s blamed on the weather being worse. In reality, the pain is a product of people having more and assuming it’s theirs and cannot be taken away. Now, if I were simply wishing to make sure what I do was elevated, I would naturally play up how bad things are getting. But there is no need for that. Why? Because as we advance as a society, the weather as it is becomes more important.
Let’s take this heat wave. I have been doing a case study on some social media hype that I’ve seen, and this happens quite often — a model comes out with an extreme idea, and then someone latches onto it and says, “See, this is where the climate is going.” We showed Lubbock, Texas, back in May, and this time we are using New York City. The Lubbock average bust on day 12 was 6° too warm. In New York City, through Friday it’s already 5.6°! Yet you are not going to see anyone who was using a model talk about that model when it busts.
The current heat wave was first talked about here three weeks ago, similar to how the bitter cold that developed around the holidays was seen well beforehand. This heat wave can’t hold a candle to some of the heat waves of the past. The heat index has replaced actual temperatures as a metric to convey to the public how hot it is. I was driving through Illinois and Iowa recently listening to forecasts with heat indexes of 110° in places — where it actually did reach 110° in the 1930s. My point? An actual temperature of 95° is not as bad as an actual temperatures of 110°. Yet the message conveyed to stir the public makes no mention of what happened before, just how you are going to feel even worse!
The fact is, we have become creatures of comfort. We have risked and built, but what makes anyone think that our grand plans are not going to be upset by what, quite frankly, is something that should happen in summer — a big heat wave? If it was the 1930s, this would not be as big a deal, nor would anyone be constantly telling you how bad it is and making you feel that your stepping outside would be into a fiery furnace worthy of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I wonder if that makes Donald Trump Nebuchadnezzar given his attitude. To steal from my friend “Larry the Cable Guy”…
Let’s get to hurricanes. Florida has been impacted by two major hurricanes in the past two years — Matthew and Irma. The latter did make landfall as a major. Matthew, of course, stayed just offshore. The brush with Cuba that weakened Irma and Matthew’s staying offshore probably saved Florida a quarter-trillion dollars. How so? If Irma had marched merrily unimpeded through the Straits of Florida like Hurricane Donna or the 1935 hurricane, it would not have weakened like it did. A powerhouse storm needs perfect conditions to stay that way, and putting half the storm’s circulation over Cuba was a godsend for Florida.
We were pointing that out loudly the day before the storm on all the outlets we had, and it was a big coup for the Euro computer model. Before settling on this scenario, previous runs of the Euro had Florida getting blasted statewide by a Cat. 4 in the southern part of the state and a Cat. 3 farther north. As for Matthew, the Euro bulldozer path of a Cat. 3 or 4 right up I-95 would have done considerably more damage than the offshore track, with winds from the north on a weaker side and frictional considerations weakening the storm.
Think about this. In the 1930s, even direct hits by these storms would not have done anywhere near the damage we would see today. It’s a matter of looking at reality. Storms have not changed, but what we risk has. Then again, what is life without risks? The solution is to adapt to known risks, not blame it on something else. I will close with this: If we were in the 1940s with today’s economic considerations, Florida with these storms could have a decade where damage reaches a trillion dollars.
We must confront these things going forward:
1) We are in a far better place as a nation than we were when some of the most powerful storms were roaming.
2) Because we are in a better place as a nation, future storms are going to do far more damage.
3) If these storms happened before, they can and will happen again.
4) Trying to “prevent” storms that have always occurred and always will ignores this crucial fact: The cause for more damage is because we have made risks to live and live better. We must adapt to what nature will do.
On a side note, I am a big advocate of seeding major hurricanes 24 hours before landfall to interrupt the processes that have made them strong. That is a trivial cost compared to trying to stop an entire system that has produced storms and always will. If we want to get ahead, make it so that our kids have better lives than us. There is always going to be a danger that we will pay a price. The planet is not a giant safe space, but its tantrums are something we can adapt to.
That said, we have to understand that this is not the worst ever and, as a matter of fact, if nature returns to where it was before, it would be a big problem hurricane- and heat-wise. But knowing the past and understanding what nature has done and can do seems to be a more rational position than readjusting it and then asserting everything today is worse.
Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”