From Scientific American:
Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”
Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”
A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: “The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923.”
Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”
As part of their bill to void the military spending cuts included in the Budget Control Act — which was passed as a result of 2011′s GOP inspired debt ceiling standoff — House Republicans proposed eliminating a program that helps states and localities respond to disasters like hurricanes.
The House Republicans’ Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, which was passed without a single Democratic vote, called for zeroing out funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), a program that provides funding to state and local governments to aid needy children, adults, and the disabled. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities noted, the SSBG also offers assistance for disaster relief:
The SSBG has served as a conduit for emergency appropriations to help residents and communities respond to the additional social service and health needs resulting from natural disasters, such as floods, wildfires, and hurricanes.
For example, in response to the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes — including Hurricane Katrina —Congress provided an additional $550 million in emergency funding to states via SSBG for use by public, non-profit, and private entities to repair, renovate, or construct health care facilities, among other purposes. The funds were disbursed promptly — within two monthsa — and SSBG’s flexibility allowed states to streamline eligibility for services funded by the emergency appropriations. Eliminating SSBG could make it harder to provide this sort of flexible human services funding in the face of emergencies.
President Obama’s budget proposed maintaining the SSBG’s annual funding of $1.7 billion; it has had that funding level since 2001. As CBPP noted, “Although the SSBG has received bipartisan support from governors and members of Congress, it has lost 77 percent of its value since 1981, due to inflation, funding freezes, and budget cuts.” This chart shows the drop: