The Water is Wide:
Sea Level Rise and Flooding in a Warming World
“The water is wide, I cannot cross over,” sighs the old folk song, and more Americans may be singing this melancholy tune in the future. This week saw the release of two striking new reports on the threats of flooding due to sea level rise and increased rainfall in a warming world.
Below, we recap the votes on the Senate transportation bill (S. 1813) likely to be of most interest to USCAN members. We recommend that you contact your Senators to express your thanks or disappointment for votes on issues of greatest concern to your organization.
“Surging Seas,” a project of the nonprofit group Climate Central, shows that sea level rise due to climate change has already doubled the annual risk of coastal flooding nationwide. “Surging Seas” is the first report to analyze how global warming is increasing the risk of coastal flooding from storm surges in the 48 contiguous states. It is also the first to provide local and national estimates of the land, housing, and population vulnerable to coastal flooding, and to estimate how the risk increases over the course of the century as sea levels continue to rise.
Visit Climate Central’s website to learn about the risk to your coastal community and other information, including the following:
After the Storm: The Hidden Health Risks of Flooding in a Warming World
Extreme precipitation and flooding are likely on the increase due to global warming. This new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists calls attention to the significant but often hidden public health risks from flooding. The top five health risks from flooding are:
- Drowning while attempting to drive through rising water;
- Drinking contaminated tap water (over half the outbreaks of waterborne diseases in the US occur after heavy rains);
- Exposure to fouled water bodies, such as in local swimming holes contaminated by sewage during flooding;
- Coming into contact with backed-up sewage in your home; and
- Exposure to mold.
Exposed: Vulnerability and Climate Change in the US Southeast
This Oxfam report, released in October 2009, is worth revisiting. The report identified “hotspots” of vulnerability to climate-related hazards in the Southeast US, including flooding, drought, hurricane-force winds, and sea level rise. This report was the first of its kind to combine hazards associated with climate change with social variables—including income, race, gender, and age—to reveal the people and places most likely to be hard hit by climate change-related hazards. View interactive website tool and maps here.
Selected Votes on the Senate Transportation Bill (S. 1813)
The US Senate passed its version of the surface transportation bill, also known as “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), March 14 by a vote of 74-22. The House passed an energy-related portion of its transportation bill (HR 7) in February, but the House leadership has not yet been able to obtain enough support to ensure passage of the main part of their transportation package and therefore have not yet brought it back to the floor.
Here are key votes related to clean air and clean energy. We encourage you to contact your Senators to express your appreciation or disappointment in their votes (also see Action Alert below).
Vitter amendment (#1535) to open up broad new areas for offshore oil and gas drilling, without important environmental safeguards, by reinstating the Bush administration’s 2010-2015 program for leasing on the outer continental shelf. Required 60 “yes” votes to pass. Failed 43-55. Click here to see your Senators’ votes.
Collins amendment (#1660) to block EPA’s mercury and air toxics standards for industrial boilers. Required 60 “yes” votes to pass. Failed 52-46. Click here to see your Senators’ votes.
Nelson(FL)-Shelby-Landrieu amendment (#1822), also known as the RESTORE Act, will support restoration of the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico region by directing 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties collected as a result of the BP oil spill towards that purpose. The amendment also provides funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Required 60 “yes” votes to pass. Passed 76-22. Click here to see your Senators’ votes.
Hoeven amendment (#1537) to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline without necessary environmental review or a process to determine whether the project is in the national interest. Required 60 “yes” votes to pass. Failed 56-42. Click here to see your Senators’ votes.
Stabenow amendment (#1812) to extend incentives that support renewable energy and energy efficiency, such as the renewable energy production tax credit. It also includes several problematic incentives for conventional fuels, but on balance it is an important step toward the expansion of the sustainable energy. Required 60 “yes” votes to pass. Failed on a tie vote, 49-49. Click here to see your Senators’ votes.
Roberts amendment (#1826) to open protected areas to offshore oil and gas drilling; allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; open lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to oil shale extraction; and force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Failed 41-57. Click here to see your Senators’ vote.
Lara Levison, Program Director/Domestic Policy Director