Hurricane Ian bulldozed some of the country’s fastest growing counties, laying bare the consequences of largely unfettered coastal development in an age of rapid climate change.
The Category 4 storm made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s southwest coast, where populations have doubled and, in some counties, tripled, since former Gov. Rick Scott (R) removed controls at the state on local development plans a decade ago, as POLITICO’s E&E News reporters. Thomas Frank and Daniel Cusick note in a story today.
Even before that, counties along the state’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts grew rapidly despite warnings that the state was courting disaster and overextended its water supply.
The more coastal development, the more people are at risk. Prior to the storm, experts estimated that 7.2 million homes – worth a combined $1.6 trillion – were at risk of damage from Ian’s flash floods.
“From a long-range planning perspective, much of what we see in Southwest Florida today shouldn’t be there,” said Tim Chapin, professor of urban planning and regional at Florida State University, to Thomas and Daniel.
Development can also alter the physical landscape of a coast, thus impeding its natural ability to mitigate the impact of a storm.
Sandy beaches and mangrove-fringed barrier islands provide a buffer zone between land, bay and ocean, acting as a shield against the impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms. Development can disrupt the natural processes that allow these buffers to absorb the energy of a storm.
In other words, coastal development weakens this first line of defence. And it’s wreaking havoc. A significant proportion of the world’s sandy coastline is eroding at an alarming rate for scientists, and rising sea levels are only exacerbating the problem.
Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of storms, giving weakened areas less time to recover and grow stronger. Ian, for example, developed as a rare triple threat: high winds of 155 mph, storm surges over 12 feet and over 2 feet of rain that caused massive flooding.
More than 2 million electric customers were without power as of this morning, and it could take weeks to restore it. The hurricane came dangerously close to becoming a Category 5 storm, which starts at 157 mph. Only four hurricanes have hit the country with this force in the last century.
It’s Thursday — thanks for listening POLITICO Power Switch. I am your host, Arianna Skibell. Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E news and POLITICO Energy. Send your advice, comments, questions to [email protected]
Today in the POLITICO Energy podcast: Josh Siegel and Kelsey Tamborrino explain why Sen. Joe Manchin backed down on his licensing legislation and the remaining hurdles a future bill will face.
Nord Stream Nightmare
The Swedish Coast Guard confirmed on Thursday that massive explosions caused four leaks in Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia, including two in Swedish Exclusive Economic Zones and two in Danish Exclusive Economic Zones in the Baltic Sea, write Camille Gijs and Charlie Duxbury.
US and European officials increasingly point to sabotage, though they have refrained from blaming Russia directly, write Zack Colman and Ben Lefebvre. Meanwhile, Russia is stepping up attempts to deflect blame.
The alleged sabotage may be one of the worst methane-related industrial accidents in history, but scientists say it may not be a major climate catastrophe. Karl Mathiesen and Zia Weise analyze the environmental implications.
Power line problems
The disappearance of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s permit proposal casts new uncertainty on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s efforts to approve long-distance power lines that would displace wind and solar power in urban areas, writes Miranda Willson.
It also revives an old question: Why can’t the nation’s top energy regulator approve high-voltage transmission projects that cross state lines?
Hurricanes upon hurricanes
Puerto Ricans still trying to recover from Hurricane Fiona have a plea for the Biden administration: Don’t forget us.
Some residents of the US island territory worry that recovery needs in Florida due to Hurricane Ian will divert attention and resources from Puerto Rico as it remains vulnerable, writes Gloria Gonzalez.
Biden addressed those concerns today. “I want to be clear: for the people of Puerto Rico, we are not leaving,” the president said. “I am committed to you and the recovery of the island.”
Melt quickly: Glaciers are disappearing at a record rate in the Alps following recent heat waves.
Hurry up and wait: Understanding how to take advantage of the tax credits for electric vehicles in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act is proving difficult, to say the least.
The science, politics and politics behind the energy transition can seem miles away. But we are all concerned at the individual and communal level – warmer days and higher gasoline prices to home insurance rates and food supply.
Want to know more? Send me your questions and I will provide you with answers.
A showcase of some of our best subscriber content.
California will build less new parking spaces in an effort to alleviate the housing shortage in the state and combat climate change.
World Bank President David Malpass’ faux pas on climate change did not bring his career the quick end that his enemies had hoped for.
Prime Minister of Barbados seeks to transform the global financial system so that the impacts of climate change stop widening the global wealth gap.
That’s all for today, friends! Thanks for reading.