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  August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Devastates Houston as Scientists Warn of the Perils of Ignoring Climate Change

Millions face flooding as the nation's 4th largest city faces another week of rain
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Jaisal Noor: The U.S. Coast Guard has deployed crews from the air in Houston in wake of Tropical Storm Harvey. On board the MH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter, the Coast Guard rescue teams managed to airlift dozens of flood victims to safety. The Coast Guard is also deployed on the ground using boats to bring stranded families to safety, to dry lands, and makeshift emergency centers.

Survivor: I first noticed the water was up over the curb and within about two hours, we had water in the house. We haven't heard any official word from any official here but we out here, Mayor, we're looking for you, city councilman. We're looking for you. Anybody of importance, we're looking for you.

Survivor 2: We know one lady. She won't come out. She's handicapped.

Speaker: Okay.

Survivor 2: She's over here on the left side. We know she's there. We know a couple of houses that's saying they're going to ride it out. We're not for sure exactly how many people.

Speaker: How deep is the water inside?

Survivor 2: Right now, the water is coming up to your shoulder by the time you get to the end of the corner.

Jaisal Noor: Houston is facing worsening flooding in the coming days as Tropical Storm Harvey drops more rain in the nation's fourth largest city, swelling rivers to record levels and forcing federal engineers on Monday to release massive amounts of water from area reservoirs in hopes of controlling the rushing currents. Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to strike Texas in more than 50 years, first hit land late Friday, August 25th, and has killed at least two people. It has since lingered around Texas' Gulf Coast where it is forecast to remain for several more days drenching parts of the region with a year's worth of rain in a span of a week.

What's gotten less attention, a storm like Harvey's links to main made climate change and the role unchecked development in the Houston area has played in worsening the floods. According a ProPublica-Texas Tribune collaboration, "Scientists, other experts, and federal officials say Houston's explosive growth is also largely to blame." As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater.

It continues that this has led to an excess of floor water during storms that chokes the city's vast bayou network. Drainage systems and two huge federally-owned reservoirs endangering many nearby homes. The Real News also recently spoke to leading climatologist, Ben Horton, about the recent reports from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing increasingly higher global temperatures. He explained why this dangerous human-caused trend could mean more disasters like Harvey or the historic Superstorm Sandy that tore through the east coast in 2012.

Ben Horton: The rates have rose towards the end of the century, if we don't do anything about climate change will be somewhere in the excess of 40 millimeters per year. What are the profound impacts of that? If we want to highlight one recent event that devastated the mid-Atlantic shoreline, and that's Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy was an unusual event. It has an unusual track. It was a slow-moving large storm, but it was on top of a baseline, and that baseline is sea level. Sea level has been rising on the US Atlantic coast and our research group has been looking at how sea level rise affects how often hurricane Sandy occurred in the past, how often that type of event occurs at the present, and how often it would occur in the future.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, an event like Hurricane Sandy occurred approximately 1 every 500 years. An event that was very rare could, there were six or seven lifetimes before an event of that magnitude. Because sea level has risen, and it's risen about 30 centimeters since the Industrial Revolution in and around New York City, that event occurs approximately every 25 years. If we don't do anything about climate change, by 2040, 2050, so within our lifetime, Hurricane Sandy may occur every five years. Twice a decade. Hurricane Sandy caused 70 billion dollars of damage to the U.S. Atlantic Coast. It effected people's lives. People lost their lives, lost their homes and that gives you the seriousness of climate change.

Jaisal Noor: For more, go to


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